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putation ; multiply these by the stars of heaven; by the particles of dust in this huge globe of earth ; by the drops of water in all the vast oceans, rivers, lakes, and springs that are spread over the globe ; by all the thoughts that have risen in so quick a succession in the minds of men and angels, from their first creation to this day; make this computation, and then look forward through this long line of duration, and contemplate your future selves : still you see yourselves in existence ; still the same persons; still endowed with the same consciousness, and the same capacities for happiness or misery, but vastly enlarged; as much superior to the present as the capacities of an adult to those of a new-born infant, or an embryo in the womb. Still will you bloom in immortal youth, and are as far from an end as in the first moment of your existence.
O Sirs, methinks it may startle us to view our future selves so changed, so improved, removed into such different regions, associated with such strange unacquainted beings, and fixed in such different circumstances of glory or terror, of happiness or misery.
Men of great projects and sanguine hopes are apt to sit and pause, and take an imaginary survey of what they will do, and what they will be in the progress of life. But then death, like an apparition, starts up before them, and threatens to cut them off in the midst of their pursuit. But here no death threatens to extinguish your being, or snap the thread of your existence; but it runs on in one continued everlasting tenor. What a vast inheritance is this, unalienably entailed upon every child of Adam ! What importance, what value, does this consideration give to that neglected thing, the soul ! What an awful being is it? Immortality! What emphasis, what grandeur in the sound ! Immortality is so vast an attribute, that it adds a kind of infinity to any thing to which it is annexed, however insignificant in other respects : and on the other hand, the want of this would degrade the most exalted being into a tride. The highest angel, if the creature of a day, or of a thousand years, what would he be ? A fading flower, a vanishing vapour, a flying shadow. When his day or his thousand years are past, he is as truly nothing as if he had never been. It is little matter what becomes of him : let him stand or fall, let him be bappy or miserable, it is just the same in a little time; he is gone, and there is no more of him ; no traces of him left. But an immortal ! a creature that shall never, never, never cease to be! that shall expand his capacities of action, of pleasure or VOL. II.
pain, through an everlasting duration ! what an awful, important being is this !-And is my soul, this little spark of reason in my breast, is that such a being? I tremble at myself. I revere my own dignity, and am struck with a kind of pleasing horror to view what I must be. And is there any thing so worthy of the care of such a being as the happiness, the everlasting happiness of my immortal part ? What is it to me, who am formed for an endless duration, what I enjoy, or what I must suffer in this vanishing state ? Seventy or eighty years bear not the least imaginable proportion to the duration of such a being ; they are too inconsiderable a point to be seen ; mere cyphers in the computation! They do not bear as much proportion as the small dust that will not turn the balance, to this vast globe of earth, and all the vaster globes that roll in their orbits through the immense space of the universe.
And what shall become of me through this immortal duration ? This, and this only, is the grand concern of an immortal : and in comparison of it, it does not deserve one thought what will be. come of me while in this vanishing phantom of a world. For consider, your immortality will not be a state of insensibility, without pleasure or pain ; you will not draw out an useless inactive, existence in an eternal stupor, or a dead sleep. But your souls will be active as long as they exist ; and as I have repeatedly observed, still retain all their capacities ; nay, their capacities will perpetually enlarge with an eternal growth, and forever tower from glory to glory in heaven, or plunge from depth to depth in hell. Here then, my fellow-immortals ! here pause and say to yourselves, “ What is like to become of my soul through this long space, forever? Is it likely to be happy or miserable ?” What though you are now rich, honourable, healthy, merry, and gay? Alas ! terrestrial enjoyments are not proper food for an immortal soul; and besides, they are not immortal, as your souls are. your portion, what will you do for happiness millions of ages hence, when all these are fled away like a vapour ? Are you provided with a happiness which will last as long as your souls will live to crave it? Have you an interest in God? Are you prepared for the fruition of the heavenly state? Do you delight in God above all ? Have you a relish for the refined pleasures of religion? Is the supreme good the principal object of your desire ? Do you now accustom yourselves to the service of God, the great employ. ment of heaven? and are you preparing yourselves for the more
If these are
exalted devotion of the church on high, by a serious attendance on the humbler forms of worship in the church on earth ? Are you made pure in heart and life, that you may be prepared for the regions of untainted holiness, to breathe in that pure salubrious air, and live in that climate, so warm with the love of God, and so near the Sun of righteousness ? Do not some of you know that this is not your prevailing character? And what then do you think will become of you without a speedy alteration in your temper and conduct ? Alas! must your immortality, the grand prerogative of your nature, become your eternal curse ? Have you made it your interest that you should be a brute ? that is, that you should perish entirely, and your whole being be extinguished in death? Then it is no wonder you strive to disbelieve the doctrine of a future state, and your own immortality. But alas! in vain is the strife. The principles of atheisin and infidelity may lull your consciences into a stupid repose for a little while, but they cannot annihilate you. They may lead you to live like beasts, but they cannot enable you to die like beasts ; no, you must live, live to suffer righteous punishment, whether you will or not. As you did not come into being by your own consent, só neither can you lay down your being when you please. And will you not labour to make your immortality a blessing? Is there any thing in this world that can be a temptation to you to forfeit such an immense blessing? O that you were wise! that you would consider this !
I shall now accommodate my subject to the present melancholy occasion, and endeavour to inake a particular improvement of it.
Do you expect a character of our deceased friend? This is not my usual practice ; and I omit it, not because I can see nothing amiable in mankind, nor because I would enviously deny them their just praises, but because I have things of much greater importance to engage your attention. The dead have received their just and unchangeable doom at a superior tribunal ; and our panegyrics or censures may be often misapplied. My business is with the living ; not to flatter their vanity with compliments, but to awaken them to a sense of their own mortality, and to a preparation for it. However, if you must have a character, I will draw it to you in the most important and interesting light. Here was a youth in the bloom of life, in the prime of his strength, with a lively flow of spirits, who seemed as secure from the stroke of death as any of us; a youth that had escaped many dangers by
sea and land ; a youth launched into the world with, no doubt, the usual projects and expectations of that sanguine age. But where is he now? In yonder grave, alas ! lies the blooming, promising flower, withered in the morning of life. There lies the mortal body, mouldering into dust, and feeding the worms. Come to his grave, ye young and gay, ye lively and strong, ye men of business and hurry, come and learn what now may, and shortly must, be your doom. Thus shall your limbs sufien, your blood stagnate, your faces wear the pale and ghastly aspect of death, and your whole frame dissolve into dust and ashes. Thus shall your purposes be broken off, your schemes vanish like smoke, and all your hopes from this world perish. Death perpetually lurks in ambush for you, ready every moment to spring upon his prey. 'O' that Death! (said a gentleman of a large estate, strong constitution, and cheerful temper) • I do not love to think of that Death ; he comes in and spoils all' So he does indeed ; he spoils all your thoughtless mirth, your idle amusements, and your great schemes. Methinks it becomes you to prepare for what you cannot avoid. Methiuks, among your many schemes and projects, you should form one to be religious. You may make a poor shift to live without religion, but you can make none to die without it. You may ridicule the saint, but he really has the advantage of you. “Well, after all,' said a celebrated unbeliever,' these christians are the happiest people upon earth.' Indeed they are ; and if you are wise, you will labour to be of their number.
But was our departed friend nothing but an animal, a mere machine of flesh? Is the whole of him putrifying in yonder grave ? No; I must draw his character farther. He was an immortal ; and no sooner did he resign his breath, than his soul took wing, and made its flight into the regions of spirits. There it now dwells. And what amazing scenes now present themselves to his view ? what strange, unknown beings does he now converse with ? There also, my brethren, you and I must ere long be. We too must be initiated into those grand mysteries of the invisible world, and mingle in this assembly of strangers. We must share with angels in their bliss and glory, or with devils in their agonies and terrors. And our eternal doom shall be according to our present character, and the improvement we make of our opportunities for preparation.
And do you, Sirs, make it your main concern to secure an happy immortality ? Do you live as expectants of eternity ? Or do
you live as though this world were to be your eternal residence, and as if your bodies, not your souls, were immortal? Does your conscience approve of such conduct ? Do you really think it is better for you, upon the whole, to commence fashionably wicked, or perhaps ringleaders in debauchery and infidelity, in a country overrun with all manner of vice? Is this better than to retain the good impressions you might perhaps receive in youth, and to act upon the model built for you in a religious education ? Which do you think you will approve of in the hour of death, that honest hour, when things begin to appear in a true light? And of which, think ye, will you be able to give the most comfortable account at the supreme tribunal ? Brethren, form an impartial judgment upon this comparison, and let it guide your conduct. Behave as strangers and pilgrims on earth, that have here no continuing city ; behave as expectants of eternity, as candidates for immortality ; as beholding him that is invisible, and looking for a city which has foundations, eternal in the heavens. In that celestial city may wa all meet at last, through Jesus Christ. Amen!
JESUS CHRIST THE ONLY FOUNDATION.
ISAIAH XXVIII, 16, 17. Behold, I lay in Zion, for a foundation,
a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner-stone, a sure foundation ; he that believeth, shall not make haste. Judgment also will I lay to the line, and righteousness to the plummet ; and the hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters shall overflow the hid ng-place.*
THE context, like many other passages of the prophetical scriptures, seems to have a double sense. The primary sense may be thus represented. The judgments of God were ready to break in
upon and overwhelm the impenitent nation of the Jews, like a tempest of hail, and a destroying storm, as a flood of mighty walers overflowing, and bearing all before it. (ver. 2.) The prophet had repeatedly given them timely warning of these approaching judgments ; but they still continued secure and impenitent, and unapprehensive of danger. They flattered themselves they had ar
This Sermon is dated Hanover, Feb. 13, 1757.