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light and empty as the bubble that floats upon the stream
It may be said, in answer to this inquiry, that men are in general so much attached to the present scene, that prospects of a celestial nature seldom, if ever, pass in review before them. The whole, or at least the principal part of their happiness, is derived from objects of sense ; consequently, these objects are sought with solicitude; the heart pants for possession; the hope of fruition stimulates to action; and, while this inordinate attachment continues, the mind, of course, will be diverted from attention to the one thing needful, and the time of serious reflection never occur, till the night cometh, in which no man can work.'
Should, however, a pause be indulged in the career of life, and a recollection of the past im. bitter the sweets of the present, men console themselves with the hope of making ample reparation by future repentance and amendment; not considering that they are under the government of a law which requires universal and perpetual
obedience-which cannot, in the very nature of the case, dispense with the violation of its own precepts, and from the penalty of which the sinner of himself cannot possibly escape.
The fact is, we are in ourselves utterly lost: under sentence of condemnation by the law of God; and, without the interposition of mercy, must inevitably perish. To speak in scripture language, The whole world is become guilty before God; there is none that doeth good, no, not one; therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight.
These facts, which are either not credited, or not properly considered by the world, I have endeavoured to prove in some of the subsequent letters. They are, in my view, truths of the last importance, with the knowledge and belief of which our present and our future happiness is intimately connected: nor do I think their validity can be controverted without manifest oppo. sition to the whole current of revelation. The Scriptures proceed on the supposition of the fall and depravity of man, and the principal part of
their contents has either a direct, or a remote reference to these awful facts.
If, it may be asked, we are in circumstances so dreadfully calamitous; if human nature be so degenerate and so impotent, who then can be saved ? To answer this infinitely momentous question, divine revelation became absolutely necessary: for had all the sons of Adam been left to perish, as were the angels who kept not their first estate, no intelligence from heaven would have been requisite to prove their apostacy from God. They would soon have found, , by painful experience, that human nature was greatly debased ; that they were, in many ininstances, under the control of inordinate appetites, and frequently agitated by passions which, in numberless instances, could have no tendency to promote general happiness. As creatures of God, and as subjects of his moral government, they must have considered themselves as amenable tô some law; and allowing this law to be founded in justice, which, as originating with God, it must; impartiality and common sense would have concurred in asserting that they
could not, in the very nature of things, be released from obligation to its precepts, nor, in the case of failure, be exempted from suffering its penalty.
By the scriptures of truth, and by these only, we know that there is forgiveness with God, that he may be feared. Without this astonishingly merciful intelligence, we should have been involved in perpetual uncertainty and darkness. For all the light that ever chased the gloom of doubt, or cheered the bosom of despondency; for all that gives confidence to faith, energy to hope, ardency to love, or fervour to devotion ; for whatever can tranquillize the mind in life, or administer consolation at the last hour, we are indebted to the Bible.
That this inestimable book exhibits a salva. tion worthy the benignity of God, and exactly suited to the wretchedness of man, I have attempted to prove in the following pages. To this salvation, therefore, I have directed my amiable friend, from whom, notwithstanding all her doubts, and all her fears, I hail satisfactory evi
dence that her sorrow was not like the sorrow of the world which worketh death.
It may, perhaps, be asked, If the salvation revealed in the Bible be so admirably well adapt ed to relieve our miseries, to encourage hope and inspire confidence in the divine benignity, whence the doubts and the fears with which Lavinia appears to be constantly harrassed? This, I allow, is a question natural to him who has never felt the bitterness of sin; who has never experienced the corruption of his own heart; nor ever seen, by the light of divine truth, the purity and the perfection of the blessed God. Let the querist have but a discovery of these, and he wilt see cause enough for dejection: he will cease to wonder that the trembling sinner should reason like the rebel who has ungratefully risen up in arms against his lawful sovereign ; who, when contemplating the heinous nature of his crime, is led to conclude that, if punishment be remitted for the present, his rebellion cannot be for gotten, nor he himself again restored to the favour and affection of his prince.