« ElőzőTovább »
he may be loved as well as feared. These general views, however, of the divine adminis tration, would not have been sufficient to give full relief, if they had not been confirmed by certain decisive facts, to which the mind can appeal amidst all its doubts and fears. Two such facts the Gospel holds forth to us, particularly adapted to the situation of human nature in its greatest extremity; the atonement, and the intercession of Christ. There is no sentiment more natural to men than this, that guilt must be expiated by suffering. All government is founded on the principle, that public justice requires compensation for crimes; and all religions proceed upon the belief, that, in order to the pardon of the sinner, atonement must be made to the justice of Heaven. Hence the endless variety of sacrifices, victims, and expiations, which have filled the earth. The great sacrifice which our Redeemer offered for guilt, coincides with these natural sentiments of mankind in giving ease to the heart. It shews us the forfeit of guilt paid by a divine personage in our behalf; and allows us to look up to the Governor of the world, as merciful to the guilty, in consistency with justice and order. But still some anxiety might remain concerning the extension of that mercy to our own case in particular,
An invisible sovereign is an awful idea; almighty, unknown power, is always formidable, and would be ready to overwhelm the spirit of the feeble, were not an intercessor with that sovereign revealed. This intercessor is one who lived and acted in our own nature; who not only knows, but who experienced our frailty; who has all the feelings of a brother for human infirmity and distress; who himself passed through that valley of the shadow of death which is now opening on us; to whose powerful mediation with his Father, we have every encouragement to commit the charge of our departing spirit.--Such is the provision which Christianity has made for comforting the last hours of man. The atonement, and the intercession of Christ, are the refuge of the penitent sinner, and the consolation of the saint. By their means, the throne of the universe is encircled with mercy. The cloud which hung over the invisible world begins to be dispers ed; and hope brightens through the gloom.
But what completes the triumph of good men over death, is the prospect of eternal fe. licity. This was the great object after which all nations have sighed, as the only complete remedy, both of the miseries of life and the fears of death. On this the learned and the ignorant, the civilized and the savage tribes of mankind, bent their longing eyes; eagerly grasping at every argument, and fondly indulging every hope, that could promise them a propitious Deity, and a prolongation of existence in a happier state. But beyond wishes and feeble expectations, the light of nature could hardly reach. Even the most cultivated philosophical mind was, at the hour of dissolution, left in painful suspence. Christianity has put an end to all hesitation and doubt on this important subject. It has drawn aside the veil through which reason essayed to penetrate ; and has displayed to full view the future dwellings of the spirits of the just, the mansions of everlasting rest, the city of the living God. Not only has it informed us that a state of perfect felicity is prepared for the righteous, but it has added to this information a variety of circumstances which render that state sensible to our imagination, and encouraging to our hopes. It represents it as fully secured by the gracious undertaking of the Saviour of the world. It describes it as an inheritance, to which he has given his followers a right and title. He is said to have taken possession of it in their name. He rose from the grave as the first-fruits of them that sleep; and under the character of their forerunner, en
tered into the heavenly regions. I am the resurrection and the life. He that believeth on me, though he were dead, yet shall he live. I give unto my sheep eternal life. I ascend to my Fa: ther and , your Father, to my God and
your God. *
Hence, to those who have lived a virtuous life, and who die in the faith of Christ, the whole aspect of death is changed. Death is to them no longer the tyrant who approaches with his iron road, but the messenger who brings the tidings of life and liberty. The
open to them cheer their minds. Even in the valley of death's shade, green pastures appear to rise. They view themselves as going forth, not to lie silent and solitary in the darkness of the grave, not to wander forsaken in the wide deserts of the universe, not even to pass into a region where they are altogether strangers and unknown; but to enter on a land, new indeed to sight, but by faith and hope frequented long before; where they shall continue to be under the charge of him who hath hitherto been their guardian, be re-united to many of their ancient and beloved friends, and admitted to join the innumerable multitude gathered out of all nations, and tongues, and people, who stand before the throne of God. They leave behind the dregs of their nature, and exchange this confined and gloomy apartment of the universe, for the glorious mansions of their Father's house. Blessed, surely, are the dying in this hope, and blessed the dead in this fruition, resting from their labours, and followed by their works. Good men are detained at present in the outer court of the temple : Death admits them into the holy place. As yet, they sojourn in the territories of pilgrimage and exile : Death brings them home to the native land of Spirits. In this world they are divided from one another, and mingled with the worthless and vile: Death unites in one assembly all the pure and the just. In the sight of the universe they seemed to die, and their departure was taken for utter destruction. But they are in peace.
* John xi. 25.-XX. 17,
Their reward also, is with the Lord, and the care of them with the Most High. *_O Death! where is now thy sting? O Grave! where is thy victory? Where are the terrors with which thou hast so long affrighted the nations? Where are thy dreary and desolate domains, the haunts of spectres and shades, the abhorred dwellings of dark
* Wisdom of Solomon, iii. 2, 3.-v. 15.