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ture state. We are told of the worm which never dies, the flames which never shall be quenched, the pangś to be endured in the association of evil spirits, the blackness of darkness which shall rest on the habitations of the condemned, the impassable hell where there shall be no hope, and where the conscience of the sufferer shall superadd the pangs of remorse to those decreed by the equity of heaven. In these representations, it would be thought, enough is displayed of the certainty and sorrow of final retribution, to operate as a motive to the reformation of crime, where crime is not yet hardened into the obduracy of impenitence; and the sinner must indeed be dead at heart, and irrecoverably immersed in guilt, who can close his ears against the voice which thus reminds him of the inevitable and fearful allotment to be awarded, for the punishment of his transgressions, by the justice of the Almighty.
And what and how sublime are the circumstances which shall accompany and heighten the terrors of the final sentence of God to the sinner! The universe shall be assembled before its Judge, who shall come forth in the clouds and in the majesty of heaven. The heart of man shall be laid open to the unerring inspection of the Almighty. The monarch and the slave shall be called with the same impartiality before the same tribunal. All shall alike endure the searching of that eye from whose glance nothing shall be concealed. All shall be alike sub . jected to the decree of that justice which nothing can evade. Every deed shall be traced to its principle and motive, and every motive unfolded from its first conception to its final impulse. The inquiry shall not be, by what oblations have ye endeavoured to conciliate celestial favour, with what zeal have ye contended for the dogmas of a creed, with what
ye fulfilled the observances of the pil, grimage, or with what rigor have ye imposed on yourselves the protracted sufferings of voluntary penance? The sinner shall be exposed to a very different scrutiny. What evil propensity have ye endured? What earthly passion have you subdued ? What fleshly lust have you resisted? What en; snaring temptation have you'opposed and overcome? What brother have you edified by your example, or aided by your charity ? With what meekness and humility have you inquired and believed ? On the reply of questions such as these is the future destiny of the guilty to depend. There shall be no hope where there has been no righteousness; and the voice of presiding and omnipotent justice shall proclaim the decree, in the presence of the multitude of nations and the hosts of heaven, which is demanded and merited by the perseverance of impenitent crime.
In this manner the veil of retribution is lifted up before the eyes of the sinner. He is called upon
in one world to recognise the tribunal which is erected in another, and admonished of the equity from which there is neither escape nor appeal. There is no room left for fallacious trust, no encouragement afforded to guilty hope. The crime is stated, the law promulgated, the measure of the punishment announced, the irresistible justice of the Judge proclaimed, a deep, a solemn, and an awful forewarning communicated of the danger and the penalty of transgression. Does the sinner close his ears against the admonition? Does he despise, the menace? Does he brave the Judge? Does he voluntarily and madly continue in the rebellion which, as he is so taught, shall conduct him to eternal retribution ? He
cannot, at least, avail himself of the plea of iynorance, nor complain of the obscurity of the prospect opened for his instruction. Mercy has sufficiently disclosed the intentions of justice; and the hand of God may be almost said to be extended to draw him from the pit which opens at his feet, and into which he voluntarily and presumptuously plunges.
The same sacred writings which disclose the future state of the wicked, reveals that of the good. In this description every thing is lofty, magnificent, and august. The parabolical language, the sublime imagery, the high allusion, are analogous to the exalted and glorious recompence to which they refer. “ Ye shall sit down with me on my throne. Ye shall “ become as a pillar in my temple. Ye shall inherit “ the morning star. Ye shall enjoy for ever the “ 'white palms and the sceptres of the just. Ye shall " abide with me in my Father's kingdom.” These expressions may be indefinite in their character, but they clearly indicate the pre-eminence of the félicity reserved for virtue, for they are full of the promise of augmented power, of exalted and unfading glory; and, though we may not be able to discover the precise nature of the reward to which they advert, the reward, announced by reference to objects so superior to all the grandeur and pomp
of this world, may justly be considered as something transcendent in its nature, and worthy to inspire the most elevated hopes, and the most patient perseverance, of piety and of virtue. : But let us inquire whether we have no lights, of a less ambiguous and uncertain nature, to guide our conjectures on this important subject; and whether some of the numerous passages in the New Testament which point to the felicities of hereafter, may
not enable us to ascertain more clearly the character and quality of the future recompence of the just ? It
may be sufficient for us to know that the reward, which is so splendid in promise, shall surpass all that we can here conceive of exaltation and happiness; but the reward will not be less likely to influence our hopes and encourage our obedience, if we can, even imperfectly, discover the nature of the dignity and blessedness in which it is to consist.
1. If, in this world, God have made adequate provision for the comfort and well-being of man, the, comfort is perpetually impaired by calamity and crime. The sky which is, at one moment, spread abroad in serenity and beauty, and, at another, deformed and darkened by tempest, is an image of the instability of human enjoyment. Wherever there is man, there are tears. Whatever be his joys, they are perpetually tainted by some infusion of bitterness and of sorrow.
He has within and without him sources of evil which mingle their current with the fountains of good opened to him by providence. External casualty, and internal frailty, are perpetually marring his purposes, or subtracting from his pleasures. It is the very law of his condition that he must be exercised and proved by discipline; and he is, accordingly, subject, even in the brightest period of his life, to wants, and nécessities, and trials, more than sufficient to render his happiness incomplete, and to satisfy him that, whatever prospect his hopes may discover in the future, the present, at least, has little to bestow but an imperfect, ambiguous, and precarious happiness.
Of this imperfection, we are expressly told, no traces shall be found in heaven. Whatever be the beatitude of the blest, it shall be diminished neither
by the fear of change, nor by the sentiment of suffering. “ All tears shall be wiped away from all eyes.' There shall be no more mourning, no more sorrow. The diseases, the competitions, the envyings, the malice, the crimes, which generate so much misery on carth, shall no longer pollute the chalice of joy. The flower that springs up shall conceal no serpent under its leaves; the light that beams abroad shall be subject to no cloud and no variation. That which is conferred shall be for ever; or, if there be change, it shall not be that which converts good to evil, and resolves harmony into discord, but that which shall augment the confidence of the blessed, while it augments their felicity.
Even in this negation of evil shall be included a great and absolute happiness. The soul which has endured in the body so many pains; which has trembled with the fear of change in its happiest hours; which has seen the pleasures of the world spring up only to be consumed by some canker-worm within ; which has drunk to the dregs the cup of time and chance; and has so long experienced the transiency and mutability of all mortal things; shall have to lament no more the frailty and the vanity which had been, hitherto, inscribed on all its joys. Instead of being confined to a body equally frail, feeble, and infirm, it shall finally be clothed in a form incorruptible and immortal. It shall be disturbed neither by fear, by anxiety, nor by sorrow, for these cannot exist in a state of security and rest; and the ambiguous tranquillity which it has been at best permitted to enjoy on earth, thall be converted into that peace which passeth all understanding, and shall continue unimpaired for ever and ever.
II. In this life we are dependent one on another;