Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

may justly be considered as a summons to prepare us for that state, into wbich it shews us that we must sometime enter; and the summons is more loud and piercing, as the event of which it warns us is at less distance. To neglect at any time preparation for death, is to sleep on our post at a siege, but to omit it in old age, is to sleep at an attack.

• It has always appeared to me one of the most striking passages in the visions of Quevedo, which stigmatizes those as fools who complain that they failed of bappiness by sudden death. How, says he, “ can death be sudden to a being who | always knew that he must die, and that the time of his death was uncertain ?”

• Since business and gaiety are always drawing our attention away from a future state, some admonition is frequently necessary to recal it to our minds, and what can more properly renew the impression than the examples of mortality which every day supplies ? The great incentive to virtue is the reflection that we must die ; it will therefore be useful to accustom ourselves whenever we see a funeral, to consider how soon we may be added to the number of those whose probation is past, and whose happiness or misery shall endure for ever.'

That it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment, are truths generally admitted : why then, it may be asked, are we so unwilling to contemplate the hour of departure ; why so reluctant to review a life of which an account must be given, and which, if it bave not been wholly devoted to vicious pleasures, has perhaps been wasted in the pursuit of trifles, 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 imbitter 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; 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 opposition 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 s0 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 bave 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 instances, under the control of inordinate appetites, and frequently agitated by passions which, in numberless instances, could have no tendency to promote general bappiness. As creatures of God, and as subjects of his moral government, they must have considered themselves as amenable to 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 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 salvation worthy the beniguity 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 dobuts and all her fears, I had satisfactory evidence 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 adapted 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 harassed? 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 be wil 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 contem• plating the heinous nature of his crime is led to conclude that, if punishment be remitted for the present, his rebellion cannot be forgotten, nor he himself again restored to the favour and affection of his prince.

But notwithstanding what the Scriptures have said to excite confidence in the divine mercy

through Jesus Christ, it will not appear strange that we are so slow of heart to believe, if it be, remembered that unbelief is a radical evil in human nature; that by which it was at first contaminated, by which it is still influenced, and, in fact, the fruitful source of many atrocities, which disgrace the character of man.

When that positive law was given, by conforinity to which the first pair were to manifest their submission to the divine will, they were expressly told that, in case of disobedience,' ey should surely die.' But no sooner was the command made known to Satan, that enemy of all righteousness, than he had the audacity to assert, that the prohibitory injunction might be violated with impunity– That they should not surely die'declaring, at the same time, That this was only an artful pretext by which to preclude them from the god-like knowledge which the Almighty knew the fruit of that tree was adapted to impart.

Now on this principle all men proceed in attempting to extenuate the turpitude of their own actions. For though God have peremptorily declared, That he will by no meaus clear the guilty—that the wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God: yet they say, not merely of comparatively small but of enormous sins, 'The Lord shall not see, neither shall the God of Jacob regard it.' Though they continue to indulge their evil propensities in almost every species of iniquity, yet they flatter themselves with the hope of escaping divine justice, or at least that, in consequence of sorrow and repentance at the last hour, the Almighty will mercifully pardon and accept them. Why, therefore, should it be thought unaccountably strange that

B

« AnteriorContinuar »