תמונות בעמוד

ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For, if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord, shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the Archangel, and with the trump of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air : and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.” This revelation gives them the assurance not simply of eternal life and glory in the future state ; it warrants them to cherish the pleasing anticipation of meeting their departed friends after death, and of enjoying, in their society, all the felicities of the heavenly world. Is not this fitted to moderate their sorrow; to make them bow with peaceful resignation to the will of God in the removal of those who are taken away; and calmly to wait the hour of their own release from their prison-house of clay. Every tie of this description which is disrupted by death, lessens their attachment to earth and fixes it more securely upon heaven ; so that what is felt to wound their heart and cause pungent grief, is graciously overruled for their good. It makes them impressively to feel the vanity and uncertainty of every thing connected with this world;

it leads them to contemplate with a deep interest the realities of eternity ; whilst the hope they entertain enables them to bear with equanimity the temporary evil which is the cause of their sorrow.

Sixthly, It is fitted to cheer them in the hour of death. The termination of life is an event to which all look forward with feelings of awe. The most careless and indifferent cannot contemplate it with unconcern. It is the hour in which all visible connexion with this world is dissolved, and the state of the soul fixed for ever. A change like this, and one too of which we can have no previous experience, is repugnant to all the feelings of our nature. Men instinctively shrink away from it; not so much, perhaps, from the love of life or the pain of death, as from what immediately follows it. They dread the thought of entering into an unseen and untried state where they shall meet the Great Eternal. Whatever, then, can remove that dread and impart peace and joy to the mind when the soul is about to quit the body, must be regarded as an invaluable blessing. It is what all men need. Without it no one can be safe. And all attempts which have been made by human means to produce such a state of mind, in these circumstances, have utterly failed.

The vague notions of another life entertained by some of the heathen, and their uncertain hope of happiness in that life, are unable to inspire them with solid peace in the prospect of death. They cannot remove the painful dubiety and the dark forebodings which fill their minds when standing upon the verge of life. The simple belief of a future existence, even when based upon incontrovertible evidence, can af. ford no great degree of satisfaction, nor shed a cheer ing influence upon the mind, when it is unaccompanied by proper conceptions of the mode of that existence, and the circumstances connected with it And this is, perhaps, all that the generality of the heathen know about the matter, They have no accurate notion of the state into which the soul passes immediately after death; they have no knowledge of the resurrection of the body; they have but very confused and inadequate conceptions of the general judgment, and are utterly ignorant of the glories and felicities of the place in which righteous men shall dwell through eternity. And, what is still worse, they cannot entirely divest themselves of the fears arising from conscious guilt. They are haunted by the painful thought that their personal virtues are not sufficiently great to entitle them to a place amongst the happy immortals, or that their sacrifices bave not fully propitiated the deities whom they worship. With views so defective and erroneous, it is not surprising that they should tremble, hesitate, and despair, when about to step into the invisible world. They are incompetent to cheer and sustain their minds. What is there, for instance, in the doctrine of a metempsychosis to impart peace and joy? Extremely little, indeed. It does not direct them to a state of perfect, unending felicity, to be entered upon immediately after death, but to what

may be called a succession of states ; of the sufferings and enjoyments peculiar to each they can scarcely form a conception. It makes nothing clear, nothing certain. The hope of such an immortality as it proposes, does not prepare them for the solemn hour of decision; it does not enable them to meet death with peace and confidence.

The boasted composure said to be enjoyed by some infidel philosophers does not indicate a state of mind greatly preferable to that of the trembling, ignorant heathen. And it will not, I am persuaded, be envied by those who have proper conceptions of the character of God, of their own sinfulness and responsibility, or be considered to be the result of principles which can be relied on in that hour of decision. Any thing bordering upon levity and indifference ill comports with the circumstances in which the soul is placed at that time, and can spring only from the absurd and fearful belief that there is no hereafter. And, oh! what a cheerless prospect is that of utter annihilation! There is nothing in it, surely, calculated to make any one either peaceful or indifferent. And although it would, doubtless, be preferable to a miserable existence throughout eternity, it cannot be contemplated by any intelligent being without emotions of horror. There is something opposed to all the feelings and affections of our nature in the thought of ceasing to exist ; in the thought of falling asleep in death to wake no more. It is true, there would, in that case, be no penal inflictions endured for the sins


committed in the body ; but neither would there be the pleasure arising from the exercise of the noble faculties which were but beginning to be unfolded in this world, and which, when perfected, are the means of exquisite enjoyment.

Indeed, there are few things fitted to cast a deeper gloom over the mind than witnessing the death of those who are imbued with the spirit of an infidel philosophy. Some of them, however tenaciously they adhered to their sentiments through life, have been unable to conceal the agony of their minds in death, when the scenes of an awful futurity began to burst upon their view. Their principles could not sustain them in the last conflict of nature. Others of them, though they have retained their sentiments to the last, have left the world in a way consistent, perhaps, with the principles and spirit of philosophy, but utterly at variance with all correct notions of the circumstances in which they were placed as creatures, and more particularly as sinners. Who, for instance, would envy the feelings of Hume, who spent the last hours of his life in frivolous games, and in amusing his friends around him with jests about Charon's boat ? Are such occupations as these suited to the dying hour of creatures about to quit the stage of life and take a long farewell of all who are dear to them? Certainly not. Or, who would say that the feelings and views with which Bentham met death are much more enviable ? “ It is recorded of him that, some time before his death, when his family believed he was near his last hour, he said to one of his dis

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