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Again, cherish Desire. And who does not desire heaven? The mariner on the ocean desires his rest: the labourer desires his home: the warrior longs to retire, even from the field of fame, where he can doff off his armour, and lay down his weapons in peace and domestic joy. And who, my brethren, tossed upon the ocean of time, labouring in the husbandry of time, fighting amid the conflicts of time, longs not for the period when he shall know even as also he is known? Does the man pining with hunger desire the feast? Does the parched traveller in the desert desire the well-spring of cool and refreshing waters? Our souls surely desire the river of the water of life; and standing as on the summit of Pisgah, with the little remnant of the wilderness before us, and beyond it the stream of Jordan, and then the fair fields of Canaan, with all their amaranthine bowers, with their green and immortal spring, who asks not that the time may come when he shall enter into the bosom of his repose? We have a desire to depart and to be with Christ, which is far better. We ask, "How long, O Lord, how long? When shall we come and appear before God?" We aspire ; "O that I had wings as a dove! then would I flee away and be at rest."
"O, when shall my spirit exchange,
"Ye palaces, sceptres, and crowns,
Your pride with disdain I survey:
"The crown which my Saviour bestows,
My God, my Redeemer is mine."
Again, my brethren, cherish Evangelical Preparation. You enter not into heaven, the world of abundant knowledge, perfect holiness and perfect happiness, excepting by the way to heaven. Brethren, your aspirations and desires must be connected with the state of preparation which is demanded by the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. What saith it? "I am the way, and the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father but by me." What saith it ? "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day." What saith it? "Neither is there salvation in any other; for there is no other name under heaven given amongst men whereby we must be saved." Repent, believe: prove repentance and prove faith by holiness and devotedness of life. This, this is the way to heaven: and, my hearers, if you tread not the path which is described, never, never will you enter into the palmy and glorious state of which we have spoken. No; never, never will your eyes gaze upon the King in his beauty, and the land which now lieth very far off. Unknown will be its cloudless sky, and its everlasting sunshine. Unknown will be its gates of pearl, and its walls of precious stones, and its streets that are paved with gold. Unknown will be its imperishable flowers, its unfading fruits, and its ambrosial fragrance; its spirits made perfect, its holy occupations, its deep songs of joy: all unknown-for ever unknown! O then other revelations will rise upon your eye, and the scenery of another and a
far other world will be disclosed. Disclosed the apostate spirit whose brow with the thunder-scar is graven; for once he "dared defy the omnipotent to arms." Disclosed the apostate spirits who, like him, were hurled from the crystal battlements of heaven, and are now reserved in chains and darkness unto the judgment of the great day. Disclosed the lost inhabitants of earth-hateful and hating one another; the convulsion agonizing every countenance; the curse or the shriek issuing from every lip; and the fire, scorching and yet imperishable, burning in every heart. Disclosed! Aye, not disclosed merely, but felt felt, remember, by yourselves, in all the dread intensity of the agonies of hell. There, sinner, is a revelation of the immortality for you! For you! What! sitting beneath the sound of the Gospel, and pointed in the path-way to heaven! For you, in whose ears the language of mercy is incessantly sounding, and before whose eyes the cross, the magic sign of salvation, is con stantly uplifted! For you? Who amongst you can dwell with the devouring fire? Who amongst you can dwell with the everlasting burnings?
Brethren, the spell is upon you; the spell is upon you: I conjure you not to break it. No; follow its leading onward to Calvary: wash there yet at its bidding, in the fountain that has been opened for sin. Led onward by the cross, in the pilgrimage that leads towards heaven, and then passing the boundary that separates one world from another, on you, in danger of perishing and ruin, shall beam the brightness of the immortality of heaven.
Brethren, my last Sabbath is now closed, and the last words of this sermon are pronounced. Only one thing I ask: it is, that you will retire to meditate and to pray and no rest shall be given to your spirits, until those spirits can point upwards to the stars and sunbeams of heaven, and look at them but as the type of the far higher glory of that world where you shall shine forth in the kingdom of your Father. Amen.
THE experience of those who are called out of darkness into the marveilous light of the Gospel is exceedingly various; or in other words, the history of one man's conversion is often exceedingly unlike the history of another man's conversion. There are some who are visited with an alarming sense of danger, and are long kept in a state of pain and of perplexity, and have much of disquietude in their spirits, ere they find their way to a place of rest and a place of enlargement. They have to describe a course of dark and stormy agitation among the terrors of the law, ere they arrive at the secure resting-place of Gospel consolation; and many are those on whose desolate hearts the light of the offered reconciliation never beamed till they had been preyed upon for months and years, by the remorse of a present guilt, and the dread of a coming vengeance. In old Scottish authors, this is called 'law work;' and you often read of it in religious lives. But though this be frequent in the history of conversion, it is far from being universal. Indeed why should it? There is a message of pardon from heaven at our doors, and its very first demand upon us is that we should give credence to it. If any one claim upon us be preferable to another, surely it is the claim of him who cannot lie that we should believe in his testimony. Are we to hold the message of God in abeyance, until we have gone some round of mental discipline and experience that may liken the history of our translation from darkness to light, to that of some fellow-mortal who hath gone before us? Are we to postpone our faith in an actual report brought to us from the upper sanctuary, till we have brought the frame of our spirit to its right adjustment by engaging in a course of certain feelings and certain fluctuations? Meanwhile, let us recollect that an embassy from above is waiting to be heard-that it is charged with the tidings of ar atonement for sin with which God is satisfied, if we are but satisfied-that we lie under a peremptory invitation to look unto Christ, and to be saved-—and that the overtures of peace and forgiveness are before us, of which we are expressly bidden to entertain and close with them. Some there are again whom the Gospel hath dawned upon in the very outset of their religious inquiries; and no sooner did it so shine upon them than they rejoiced. The earliest morning of their Christianity ushered in gladness, so that they were scarcely sensible of any tempestuous passage midway from the peace of nature to the peace of the Gospel. The call to believe they felt to be imperative; and coming, as it did, with what they were made to recognize as a voice of authority, they permitted not the lapse of a single day between the conviction that they were great sinners, and the consolation that Christ was a great Saviour-they felt that they had no right to suspend their acquiescence in the truth of what God had said, till they had completed a given period of sighing and of sorrowing because of their unworthiness; and so at the very earliest announcement of the tidings of good joy they were joyful. Their transition seems to have been immediate from a state of ungodliness to a sense of God, as their reconciled Father. Some have been made alive unto God, first as an angry offended judge, and then as their reconciled friend; others, again, are drawn by the cords of love without being driven by the terrors of the law, and instead of being awakened by the thunders of its violated authority, they are awakened, like the shepherds of Bethlehem, by a music of a softer and sweeter utterance that preaches peace on earth, and good-will even to the guiltiest of all its generations."-DR. CHALMERS.
THE STATE AND PROSPECTS OF THE DEPARTED,
REV. J. BLACKBURN,
FETTER LANE CHAPEL, DECEMBER 17, 1835.
And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; and in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us that would come from thence."-LUKE, xvi. 22—26.
THAT was a sublime vision of the Son of God which the Apostle John enjoyed in the Isle of Patmos. He beheld his risen Lord in circumstances so commanding and glorious, that an emblematic description could alone express its majesty. The details of those emblems are not connected with my present subject. One symbol, however, the Saviour claimed, which is connected with it: "I am he that liveth, and was dead; and behold I am alive for evermore, and have the keys of hell and of death." Those keys he possessed, not to indicate his servitude, as if he were the great jailor of the universe, keeping culprit spirits under his power till the time of retribution should come, but to indicate his entire control over the time of our departure out of the present state, and over all that long period that may intervene between the hour of our death and of his coming to pronounce the final sentence of the judgment-day.
Now, as the Saviour has presented us with this interesting view of his own official character, surely, my brethren, there is no individual to whom we can listen with so much safety and comfort as the great Teacher himself," the faithful and true witness," when he draws aside the veil, and discloses the unseen world to view, as in the passage before us. I know, indeed, that it is usually regarded as a parable, though it is certainly not so introduced to our notice. But even if we assume that it be a parabolical description, yet, when we remember who is the author of it, we must at once believe that he would not deign to employ any imagery which were not warranted by the facts of the case. Parables may be regarded as moral paintings, and much of the moral painter's art is displayed in harmonizing their several parts. When you look upon an historical picture, you see the principal group stand prominently before you, in all the faithfulness of historical representation: but the minor details of the scene are filled up and managed according to the skill of the
artist, and with a view to secure general effect. So when we study the parables of our Lord, it is our duty to observe the leading truth as it is presented prominently to our view, and to regard the lesser circumstances as intended principally to harmonize and fill up the picture. I hold it therefore to be a sound canon of interpretation, that we ought not to build doctrine upon parable unless we find that doctrine elsewhere sustained by the express statements of the Sacred Scriptures.
As I could find no other passage in the word of God which described such opposite characters and circumstances in the unseen world, I have been induced to select a part of this interesting parable as the basis of my discourse upon "the state and prospects of the departed." I believe, however, that what I have to say will not rest on the authority of this parable only, but upon various other portions of God's word, which I shall present for your candid and prayerful consideration.
Now, it is my design, in discussing the subject that has been announced for the present lecture, to make four observations, in connexion with the passage I have read.
The first is, that THE SPIRITS OF MEN ARE IN A CONSCIOUS STATE AFTER THEIR BODIES ARE dead. This is taught in the twenty-second and twentythird verses: "And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried, and in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments." Here we learn the rich man was buried; no doubt with all the pomp and circumstance attending his rank in society and the poor beggar died, and received a funeral, according with the humble circumstances in which he departed. But though each found his appropriate grave, yet, both their spirits were conscious in another state: the one reposed in Abraham's bosom, and the other lifted up his eyes being in torment. There can be no doubt, therefore, that our Lord meant, by this representation, to teach that the spirits of men are in a state of conscious existence after their bodies are dead.
It cannot be expected (having so wide a subject before me to-night) that I should enter on an elaborate argument against the opinions of the materialist. He maintains the dependence of the spiritual principle in man, upon the organization of his brain, and therefore contends, that when disease shall derange, or death extinguish the animal life of man, all consciousness is brought into abeyance, and the mind falls with the body into a state of ruin, till the trumpet of the archangel shall call both to organization and life again at the resurrection. Now, though I cannot argue at this time, at length, against this opinion, yet I must avow my convictions, that it is alike opposed to science, to our own consciousness, and to the word of God. I think it is opposed to science. Take an atom: can that atom think? My body and yours are made up of myriads of atoms can any combination of atoms possess thought? It is, indeed, maintained, that thought depends upon the organization of the brain; and that no injury can come to the brain without affecting the powers of the mind. But it is a notorious fact, that the most serious injuries have been inflicted on the brain without affecting the powers of thought. A medical practitioner told me but yesterday, that he has removed an ounce of the medullary substance of the brain, and yet that the patient retained possession of thought and reason. How then