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Having now disposed both of the Souls and Bodies of the Dead, to the Keeping of God, until the Last Renovation of Nature, we follow our Aposde to a new face of things; and may God, the Father of Light and Love, scatter the dark and doubtful before us, and leave us to a clear View of his Heavenly Truth!
We left the Aposde in our last Sermon at the close of his Peroration, in that critical moment of his Defence, when he had brought his arguments to bear with their full strength on the Conscience of his Trembling Judge; praying to hear no more at that time and Promising to send for him atamore convenientSeason—Poor and idle excuse! Oh! that all men, instead of waiting for z more convenient season, would, in the present fleeting moment, which is all we can call our own, look forward to that awful period referred to by the Apostle, and place themselves, in imagination at least, before the tribunal of Christ, in the sight of assembled men and angels, and ask themselves seriously, how they are to plead their cause, and answer such questions as the following, at that Day:—
by the invention of useful arts, and constant endeavours to do good, and to communicate happiness to the world around them.—
"Inventas aut qui vitam excoluere per artes;
"S^uique sui memores alios fecere merendo.—1. 66", 664. The temples of all these, Virgil binds'with white garlands, and distinguishes them among the happy in Elysium.
"Omnibus bis nivea cinguntur tempora vitta.—1. 665. And Cicero had sanctioned what Virgil has here doomed to them:— It is my belief, dear Scipio, that there are select Mansions, set apart in heaven, where the benefactors of mankind, those who have saved, or enlarged the interests of their country will enjoy everlasting happiness. "Omnibus (sic babeo, Africane) qui patriam conserverint, auxerint, certum "esse in Coelo definitum locum ubi, beati, ievo sempiterno fruantur." Somn. Scip.
"Did I, when in the world, fix all my happiness on what I then possessed? Did I, hardened and secure, put off my everlasting interests from day to day, without seeking unto Christ, as my supreme good, and never-failing refuge, from every storm ivithin and "without? If I did, where can I look for safety and protection, but from Him whom I have rejected and scorned, and whose saving Blood I counted an unholy thing? If I flattered myself in successful guile and deep dissimulation; if my deeds were evil and I shunned the light; if I wrapt them in sevenfold darkness, to hide them from the sight of men; where, oh! where shall I hide them in that Day from the searching eye of all-avenging Justice?
On the Gospel scheme of Salvation then, and on the merits of Redeeming Love, producing a life of Righteousness, Temperance, and all Evangelic Virtues, be my whole hopes fixed! .
The time is coming, as our Apostle reminded Felix, in his short sketch of a Judgment to come, when this world itself, and all that we can trust in it, shall be no more; and of the things that now are, not a wreck shall be left behind. The immortal Soul of man shall be the sole survivor, and the consciousness of a life well-spent, and of being accepted in Christ Jesus will be her only supports; and, therefore, he who would wish to have his Soul established on any future good, and to sing a requiem to doubts and perplexities, must not put off to a more convenient Season; but seize the present hour, keeping in stedfast view that everlasting Day, which shall give all in fruition, and leave no morrow to succeed. For—
"The Sun himself, and all things earthly, shall fail and pass away; but divine Love and Charity, -heavenly Virtue and Goodness, like the Soul in which they dwell—these shall be Immortal; and when all things else shall fail, they shall only begin to grow and flourish, reverting to their Fountain God, to be fed by the streams of Joy which flow at His Right Hand, and never to be separated from Him, but to mix and rejoice in the boundless source of His parental and eternal Love! Even so! may we all be admitted to taste and to know that His Goodness is thus shed around Him, and endureth forever and ever! Amen!
FIRST PREACHED, JANUARY, 1794.
1 THESS. Chap. IV. Ver. 13—18.
But I would not have you 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 Gon bring with him, See.
1 HE Separation of the Soul from the Body at Death, the commitment of the Body to the Grave, and the certainty of its being raised again from the Dead, and of their being re-united at the last day— the State and Employment of the Soul, or Spiritual Part, during the intermediate space of Time, between its Separation from, and Re-union with, the Body; the Guesses, Conjectures and Divinations of many of the greatest Pagan Writers and Philosophers on this subject, with the doctrines of the different Sects of Christians concerning the same;—the Dissolution of this World and a Judgment to come—these have been the interesting topics of sundry of my last foregoing Sermons. Virgil and Cicero have been my chief Guides among the Pagan Writers; and the illustrious St. Paul has illuminated and directed my Way, among the mazy and thorny Paths of the Christian Expositors and Theologists.
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We left St. Paul, in the last Sermon, proving and defending the great truths of the Christian Revelation, concerning a Resurrection and Judgment to come, before Felix, a Roman Governor,trembling at the novelty of.the doctrine, and, especially, at the amazing grandeur of his description of some of the circumstances of the last Judgment. Great indeed is the subject, and difficult for Man to do it any justice. "For certainly (says the sublime Burnet) there is nothing in the whole course of Nature, or of Human Affairs, so great and extraordinary, as the two last scenes of them; the Coming of our Saviour, and the Burning of the World! If we coukl draw a true Picture of them in our Minds, we should scarce be able to divert them from our Imagination, or attend to any Thing else; for what can more affect us than the greatestGlory that was ever visible upon Earth, arid at the same time the greatest Terror—a God descending at the Head of an Army of Angels, and a Burning World, under his Feet?"
"These things are so remote from the ordinary Thoughts and Conceptions of Man, that he has no Language to express them in, no ideas that can reach them, and no comparisons by which he can illustrate them"—Earthquakes, Volcanos and fiery Eruptions can lend but feeble Aid, even when described by the ablest human pen, With all their circumstances of terror, and foreboding signs in the Earth and in the Air and in the Sea., which are their Forerunners! We may take, as a Specimen, that great eruption of Vesuvius, in the tifne 'of Titus Vespasian, recorded