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to the express orders which he has given us; although it is true, that in doing His will, we most effectually secure our own happiness, seeing it is herein only that we can be happy, cither in time, or in eternity. Thus we are to use our understanding, our imagination, our memory, wholly to the glory of Him that gare them. Thus our will is to be wholly given up to Him, and all our affections to be regulated as He directs. We are to love and bate, to rejoice and grieve, to desire and shun, to hope and fear, according to the rule which He prescribes, whose we are, and whom we are to serve in all things, Even our thoughts are not our own in this sense; they are not at our own disposal; but for every deliberate motion of our mind, we are accountable to our great Master.
1. God has, secondly, entrusted us with our Bodies, (those exquisitely wrought machines, so “ fearfully and wonderfully made,'') with all the powers and members thereof. He has entrusted us with the organs of sense; of sight, hearing, and the rest : but none of these are given us as our own, to be employed according to our own will. None of these are lent us in such a sense, as to leave us at liberty to use them as ire please for a season. No: we have received them on these very terms, that, as long as they abide with us, we should employ them all, in that very manner, and no other, which He appoints.
5. It is on the same terms, that he imparted to us that most excellent talent of speech. “ Thou hast given me a tongue,” says the ancient writer, “that I may praise thee therewith.” For this purpose was it given to all the children of men, to be employed iu glorifying God. Nothing, therefore, is more ungrateful or more absurd, than to think or say, 'Our longues are our own.' That caunot be, unless we have created ourselves, and so are independent on the Most High. Nay, but “it is He that hath made us, and not we ourselves :” The manifest consequence is, that he is still Lord over us, in this as in all other respects. It follows, that there is not a word of our tongue, for which we are not accountable to Him.
6. To Him we are equally accountable for the use of our hands and feet, and all the members of our body. These are so many talents which are committed to our trust, until the time appointed by the Father. Until then, we have the use of all these; but as stewards, not as proprietors; to the end, we should “render them, not as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin, but as instruments of righteousness unto God."
7. God has entrusted us, thirdly, with a portion of Worldly Goods; with food to eat, raiment to put on, and a place where to lay our head; with not only the necessaries but the conveniences of life. Above all, he has committed to our charge, that precious talent, which contains all the rest, money : indeed it is unspeakably precious, if we are wise and faithful stewards of it; if we employ every part of it for such purposes as our blessed Lord has commanded us to do.
8. God has entrusted us, fourthly, with several talents, which do not properly come under any of these heads. Such is bodily strength; such are health, a pleasing person, an agreeable address; such are learning and knowledge in their various degrees, with all the other advantages of education. Such is the influence which we have over others, whether by their love and esteem of us, or by power; power to do them good or hurt, to help or hinder them in the circumstances of life. Add to these, that invaluable talent of time, with which God entrusts us from moment to moment. Add, lastly, that on which all the rest depend, and without which they would all be curses, not blessings; namely, the Grace of God, the power of his Holy Spirit, which alone worketh in us all that is acceptable in his sight.
II. 1. In so many respects are the children of men Stewards of the Lord, the Possessor of heaven and earth: So large a portion of his goods, of various kinds, hath he committed to their charge. But it is not for ever, nor indeed for any considerable time: We have this trust reposed in us, only during the short, uncertain space that we sojourn here below; only so long as we remain on earth, as this fleeting breath is in our nostrils. The hour is swiftly approaching, it is just at hand, when we " can be no longer stewards !” The moment the body “ returns to the dust as it was, and the spirit to God that gave it,” we bear that character no more; the time of our stewardship is at an end. Part of those goods wherewith we were before entrusted, are now come to an end; at least, they are so with regard to us; nor are we Jonger entrusted with them : and that part which remains, can no longer be employed or improved as it was before.
2. Part of what we were entrusted with before, is at an end, at least with regard to us. What have we to do, after this life, with food, and raiment, and houses, and earthly possessions ? The food of the dead is the dust of the earth; they are clothed only with worms and rottenness. They dwell in the house prepared for all flesh; their lands know them no more. All their worldly goods are delivered into other hands, and they have “no more portion under the sun.”
3. The case is the same with regard to the body. The moment the spirit returns to God, we are no longer stewards of this machine, which is then sown in corruption and dishonour. All the parts and members of which it iras composed, lie mouldering in the clay. The hands have no longer power to move; the feet have forgot their office; the flesh, sinews, and bones, are all hastening to be dissolved into common dust!
4. Here end also the talents of a mixed nature; our strength, our health, our beauty, our eloquence, and address; our faculty of pleasing, of persuading, or convincing others. Here end likewise all the honours we once enjoyed, all the power which was lodged in our hands, all the influence which we once had over others, either by the love or the esteem which they bore us. Our love, our hatred, our desire is perished: none regard how we were once affected toward them. They look upon the dead as neither able to help nor hurt them ; so that “ a living dog is better than a dead lion.”
5. Perhaps a doubt may remain concerning some of the other talents wherewith we are now entrusted, whether they will cease to exist when the body returns to dust, or only cease to be improvable. Indeed there is no doubt, but the kind of speech which we now use, by means of these bodily organs, will then be entirely at an end, when those organs are destroyed. It is certain, the tongue will no more occasion any vibrations in the air ; neither will the car convey these tremulous motions to the common sensory. Even the sonus exilis, the low, shrill voice, which the poet supposes to belong to a separate spirit, we cannot allow to have a real being; it is a mere flight of imagination. Indeed, it cannot be questioned, but separate spirits have some way to communicate their sentiments to each other; but what inhabitant of flesh and blood can explain tiiat way? What we term speech, they cannot have: So that we can no longer be stewards of this talent, when we are numbered with the dead.
6. It may likewise admit of a doubt, whether our senses will exist, when the organs of sense are destroyed. Is it not probable, that those of the lower kind will cease,-the feeling, the smell, the taste,-as they have a more immediate reference to the body, and are chiefly, if not wholly, intended for the
preservation of it? But will not some kind of sight remain, although the eye be closed in death ? And will there not be something in the soul equivalent to the present sense of hearing ? Nay, is it not probable, that these will not only exist in the separate state, but exist in a far greater degree, in a more eminent manner, than now, when the soul, disentangled from its clay, is no longer “a dying spark in a cloudy place;” when it no longer “looks through the windows of the eye and ear;” but rather is all eye, all ear, all sense, in a manner we cannot yet conceive ? And have we not a clear proof of the possibility of this, of seeing without the use of the eye, and hearing without the use of the ear? Yea, and an earnest of it continually ? For does not the soul see, in the clearest manner, when the eye is of no use; namely, in dreams? Does she not then enjoy the faculty of hearing, without any help from the ear? But however this be, certain it is, that neither will our senses, any more than our speech, be entrusted to us in the manner they are now, when the body lies in the silent grave.
7. How far the knowledge or learning which we have gained by education will then remain, we cannot tell. Solomon indeed says, “ There is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave whither thou goest.” But it is evident, these words cannot be understood in an absolute sense. For it is so far from being true, that there is no knowledge after we have quitted the body, that the doubt lies on the other side, whether there be any such thing as real knowledge till then ? Whether it be not a plain, sober truth, not a mere poetical fiction, that
“ All these shadows, which for things we take,
Are but the empty dreams, which in death's sleep we make?"Only excepting those things which God himself has been pleased to reveal to man. I will spcak for one : After having sought for truth, with some diligence, for half a century, I am, at this day, hardly sure of any thing, but what I learn from the Bible. Nay, I positively affirm, I know nothing else so certainly, that I would dare to stake my salvation upon it.
So much, however, we may learn from Solomon's words, " that there is no "such“ knowledge or wisdom in the grave,” as will be of any use to an unhappy spirit; there “is no device” there, whereby he can now improve those talents, with which he was once entrusted. For time is no more; the time Vol. I, No. 14.
of our trial for everlasting happiness or miscry is past. Our day, the day of man, is over; the day of salvation is ended! Nothing now remaius but “the day of the Lord,” ushering in wide, unchangcablc eternity!
8. But still, our souls, being incorruptible and immortal, of a nature “little lower than the angels,” (even if we are to understand that phrase of our original nature, which may well admit of a doubt,) when our bodies are mouldered into earth, will remain with all their faculties. Our memory, our understanding, will be so far from being destroyed, yea, or impaired, by the dissolution of the body, that, on the contrary, we have reasou to believe, they will be inconceivably strengthened. Have we not the clearest reason to believe, that they will then be wholly freed from those defects, which now naturally result from the union of the sonl with the corruptible body? It is highly probable, that, from the time these are disunited, our memory will let nothing slip; yea, that it will faithfully exhibit everything to our view, which was crer committed to it. It is true, that the invisible world is, in Scripture, termed “ the land of forgetfulness ;” or, as it is still more strongly expressed in the old translation, “the land where all things are forgotten.” They are forgotten; but by whom ? Not by the inhabitants of that land, but by the inhabitants of the earth. It is with regard to them that the uuseen world is “the land of forgetfulness.” All things therciu are too frequently forgolien by these'; but not by disembodied spirits. From the time they have put off the earthly tabernacle, we can hardly think tlicy forget any thing.
9. In like manner, the understanding will, doubtless, be freed from the defects that are now inseparable from it. For many ages it has been an unquestioned maxim, Humanum est errure et nescire;-ignorance and mistake are inseparable from human nature. But the whole of this assertion is only true with regard to living men; and holds no longer, than while “the corrnptible body presses down the soul.” Ignorance, indeed, belongs to every tinite wderstanding ; (seeing there is none beside (iod that huoncih all things ;) but not mistake: When the body is laid aside, this also is laid aside for ever.
10. What then can we say of an ingenious man, who has lately made a discovery, that disembodied spirits have not only zo scuses, (not cren sight or hearing,) but no memory, or understanding; netheuglit, or perception; not so much