Sidor som bilder

every object-enter into his mind, and tell | piness-that time is too small for him, and me if repose or enjoyment be there; see he is born for something beyond it-that him the poor victim of chagrin and disquie- the scene of his earthly existence is too tude-mark his heart as it nauseates the limited, and he is formed to expatiate in a splendour which encompasses him-and wider and a grander theatre-that a nobler tell me, if you have not learned, in the destiny is reserved for him---and that to truest and most affecting characters, that accomplish the purpose of his being, he even in the full tide of a triumphant ambi- must soar above the littleness of the world, tion, "man labours for the meat which and aim at a loftier prize. perisheth, and for the food which satisfieth not."

What meaneth this restlessness of our nature? What meaneth this unceasing activity which longs for exercise and employment, even after every object is gained, which first roused it to enterprise? What mean those unmeasurable longings, which no gratification can extinguish, and which still continue to agitate the heart of man, even in the fulness of plenty and of enjoyment. If they mean any thing at all, they mean, that all which this world can offer, is not enough to fill up his capacity for-hap

It forms the peculiar honour and excellence of religion, that it accommodates to this property of our nature--that it holds out a prize suited to our high calling-that there is a grandeur in its objects, which can fill and surpass the imagination--that it dignifies the present scene by connecting it with eternity--that it reveals to the eye of faith the glories of an unperishable world-and how, from the high eminences of heaven, a cloud of witnesses are looking down upon earth, not as a scene for the petty anxieties of time, but as a splendid theatre for the ambition of immortal spirits.


The transitory Nature of visible Things.

"The things that are seen are temporal."-2 Corinthians iv. 18.

THE assertion that the things which are seen are temporal, holds true in the absolute and universal sense of it. They had a beginning, and they will have an end. Should we go upwards through the stream of ages that are past, we come to a time when they were not. Should we go onward through the stream of ages that are before us, we come to a time when they will be no more. It is indeed a most mys-that is temporal lies in passive and prosterious flight which the imagination ven- trate subordination before the will of the untures upon, when it goes back to the eter-created God. It is good to know how little nity that is behind us-when it mounts its a portion it is that we see of him and of ascending way through the millions and his mysterious ways. It is good to lie at the millions of years that are already gone the feet of his awful and unknown majesty through, and stop where it may, it finds the--and while secret things belong to him, it line of its march always lengthening be-is good to bring with us all the helplessness yond it, and losing itself in the obscurity of and docility of children to those revealed as far removed a distance as ever, It soon lessons which belong to us and to our chilreaches the commencement of visible things, dren. or that point of its progress when God made the heavens and the earth. They had a beginning, but God had none; and what a wonderful field for the fancy to expatiate on, when we get above the era of created worlds, and think of that period when, in respect of all that is visible, the immensity around us was one vast and unpeopled soli-existence will have an end. His eye is full tude. But God was there in his dwelling- upon futurity. It is the passing away of place, for it is said of him that he inhabits visible things in the time that is to come, eternity; and the Son of God was there, for and the ever during nature of invisible we read of the glory which he had. with the things through the eternity that is to come,

Father before the world was. The mind cannot sustain itself under the burden of these lofty contemplations. It cannot lift the curtain which shrouds the past eternity of God. But it is good for the soul to be humbled under a sense of its incapacity. It is good to realize the impression which too often abandons us, that he made us, and not we ourselves. It is good to feel how all

But this is not the sense in which the temporal nature of visible things is taken up by the Apostle. It is not that there is a time past in which they did not exist---but there is a time to come in which they will exist no more. He calls them temporal, because the time and the duration of their

[ocr errors]

which the Apostle is contemplating. Now, nence which it now occupies-that the toron this one point we say nothing about the rent which falls from its side never ceases positive annihilation of the matter of visible to consume its substance, and to carry it things. There is reason for believing, that off in the form of sediment to the oceansome of the matter of our present bodies that the frost which assails it in the winter may exist in those more glorified and trans-loosens the solid rock, detaches it in pieces formed bodies which we are afterwards to from the main precipice, and makes it fall occupy. And for any thing we know, the in fragments to its base-that the power matter of the present world, and of the pre- of the weather scales off the most flinty sent system may exist in those new heavens materials, and that the wind of heaven and that new earth, wherein dwelleth righ- scatters them in dust over the surrounding teousness. There may be a transfiguration country--that even though not anticipated of matter without a destruction of it---and, by the sudden and awful convulsions of the therefore, that when we assert with day of God's wrath, nature contains within the Apostle in the text, how things seen itself the rudiments of decay-that every are temporal, we shall not say more than hill must be levelled with the plains, and that the substance of these things, if not every plain be swept away by the constant consigned back again to the nothing from operation of the rivers which run through which they had emerged, will be employed it--and that, unless renewed by the hand in the formation of other things totally dif- of the Almighty, the earth on which we ferent--that the change will be so great, as are now treading must disappear in the that all old things may be said to have mighty roll of ages and of centuries. We passed away, and all things to become new cannot take our flight to other worlds, or -that after the wreck of the last conflagra- have a near view of the changes to which tion, the desolated scene will be re-peopled they are liable. But surely if this world with other objects; the righteous will live which, with its mighty apparatus of contiin another world, and the eye of the glori- nents and islands, looks so healthful and so fied body will open on another field of con- firm after the wear of many centuries, is templation from that which is now visible posting visibly to its end, we may be prearound us. pared to believe that the principles of destruction are also at work in other provinces of the visible creation-and that though of old God laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of his hands, yet they shall perish; yea, all of them shall wax old like a garment, and as vesture shall he change them, and they shall be changed.

Now, in this sense of the word temporal, the assertion of my text may be carried round to all that is visible. Even those objects which men are most apt to count upon as unperishable, because, without any sensible decay, they have stood the lapse of many ages, will not weather the lapse of eternity. This earth will be burnt up. The light of yonder sun will be extinguished. These stars will cease from their twinkling. The heavens will pass away as a scroll-and as to those solid and enormous masses which, like the firm world we tread upon, roll in mighty circuit through the immensity around us, it seems the solemn language of revelation of one and all of them, that from the face of him who sitteth on the throne, the earth and the heavens will fly away, and there will be found no place for them.

We should be out of place in all this style of observation, did we not follow it up with the sentiment of the Psalmist, "These shall perish, but thou shalt endure; for thou art the same, and thy years have no end." What a lofty conception does it give us of the majesty of God, when we think how he sits above, and presides in high authority over this mighty series of changes-when after sinking under our attempts to trace him through the eternity that is behind, we look on the present system of things, and are taught to believe that it is but a single step in the march of his grand administrations through the eternity that is before us

Even apart from the Bible, the eye of observation can witness, in some of the hardest and firmest materials of the present system, the evidence of its approaching dis---when we think of this goodly universe, solution. What more striking, for example, summoned into being to serve some temthan the natural changes which take place porary evolution of his great and mysterion the surface of the world, and which ous plan---when we think of the time when prove that the strongest of Nature's ele- it shall be broken up, and out of its disorments must, at last, yield to the operation dered fragments other scenes and other of time and of decay--that yonder towering systems shall emerge-surely, when famountain, though propped by the rocky tigued with the vastness of these contembattlements which surround it, must at last plations, it well becomes us to do the hosink under the power of corruption-that mage of our reverence and wonder to the every year brings it nearer to its end-that one Spirit which conceives and animates the at this moment, it is wasting silently away, whole, and to the one noble design which and letting itself down from the lofty emi- runs through all its fluctuations.

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

But more than this. Though we live too short a time to see the great changes which are carrying on in the universe, we live

But there is another way in which the | for thousands of centuries, your eyes will objects that are seen are temporal. The soon be closed upon them. The time is object may not merely be removed from coming when this goodly scene shall reach us, but we may be removed from the ob- its positive consummation. But, in all likeject. The disappearance of this earth, and lihood, the time is coming much sooner, of these heavens from us, we look upon when you shall resign the breath of your through the dimness of a far-placed futurity. nostrils, and bid a final adieu to every thing It is an event, therefore, which may re- around you. Let this earth, and these heagale our imagination; which may lift our vens be as enduring as they may, to you mind by its sublimity; which may disengage they are fugitive as vanity. Time, with its us in the calm hour of meditation from mighty strides, will soon reach a future gethe littleness of life, and of its cares; and neration, and leave the present in death and which may even throw a clearness and a in forgetfulness behind it. The grave will solemnity over our intercourse with God. close upon every one of you, and that is But such an event as this does not come the dark and the silent cavern where no home upon our hearts with the urgency of voice is heard, and the light of the sun never a personal interest. It does not carry along enters. with it the excitement which lies in the nearness of an immediate concern. It does not fall with such vivacity upon our conceptions, as practically to tell on our pur-long enough to see many of its changessuits, or any of our purposes. It may ele- and such changes too as are best fitted to vate and solemnize us, but this effect is warn and to teach us; even the changes perfectly consistent with its having as little which take place in society, made up of influence on the walk of the living, and the human beings as frail and as fugitive as moving and the acting man, as a dream of ourselves. Death moves us away from poetry. The preacher may think that he many of those objects which are seen and has done great things with his eloquence-temporal---but we live long enough to see and the hearers may think that great things many of these objects moved away from us have been done upon them-for they felt a---to see acquaintances falling every year-fine glow of emotion, when they heard of to see families broken up by the rough and God sitting in the majesty of his high coun- unsparing hand of death--to see houses sels, over the progress and the destiny of and neighbourhoods shifting their inhabicreated things. But the truth is, my bre- tants---to see a new race, and a new genethren, that all this kindling of devotion ration--and, whether in church or in marwhich is felt upon the contemplation of his ket, to see unceasing changes in the faces greatness, may exist in the same bosom. of the people who repair to them. We with an utter distaste for the holiness of know well, that there is a poetic melanhis character; with an entire alienation of choly inspired by such a picture as this, the heart and of the habits from the obe- which is altogether unfruitful---and that, dience of his law; and above all, with a totally apart from religion, a man may most nauseous and invincible contempt for give way to the luxury of tears, when he the spiritualities of that revelation, in which thinks how friends drop away from him— he has actually made known his will and how every year brings along with it some his way to us. The devotion of mere taste sad addition to the registers of death--- how is one thing-the devotion of principle the kind and hospitable mansion is left withis another. And as surely as a man may out a tenant---and how, when you knock weep over the elegant sufferings of poetry, at a neighbour's door, you find that he who yet add to the real sufferings of life by welcomed you, and made you happy, is no peevishness in his family, and insolence longer there.. O that we could impress by among his neighbours-so surely may a all this, a salutary direction on the fears man be wakened to rapture by the magni- and on the consciences of individuals---that ficence of God, while his life is deformed we could give them a living impression of by its rebellions, and his heart rankles with that coming day, when they shall severally all the foulness of idolatry against him. share in the general wreck of the species--` when each of you shall be one of the many whom the men of the next generation may remember to have lived in yonder street, or laboured in yonder manufactory---when they shall speak of you, just as you speak of the

Well, then, let us try the other way of bringing the temporal nature of visible things to bear upon your interests. It is true, that this earth and these heavens, will at length disappear; but they may outlive our posterity for many generations. How-men of the former generation---who, when ever, if they disappear not from us, we they died, had a few tears dropped over their most certainly shall disappear from them. memory, and for a few years will still conThey will soon cease to be any thing to tinue to be talked of. O, could we succeed you--and though the splendour and variety in giving you a real and living impression of of all that is visible around us, should last all this; and then may we hope to carry the

lesson of John the Baptist with energy to your fears, "Flee from the coming wrath." But there is something so very deceiving in the progress of time. Its progress is so gradual. To-day is so like yesterday that we are not sensible of its departure. We should make head against this delusion. We should turn to personal account every example of change or of mortality. When the clock strikes, it should remind you of the dying hour. When you hear the sound of the funeral bell, you should think, that in a little time it will perform for you the same office. When you wake in the morning, you should think that there has been the addition of another day to the life that is past, and the subtraction of another day from the remainder of your journey. When the shades of the evening fall around you, you should think of the steady and invariable progress of time---how the sun moves and moves till it will see you out-and how it will continue to move after you die, and see out your children's children to the latest generations.

Every thing around us should impress the mutability of human affairs. An acquaintance dies--you will soon follow him. A family moves from the neighbourhoodlearn that the works of man are given to change. New familes succeed-sit loose to the world, and withdraw your affections from its unstable and fluctuating interests. Time is rapid, though we observe not rapidity. The days that are past appear like the twinkling of a vision. The days that are to come will soon have a period, and will appear to have performed their course with equal rapidity. We talk of our fathers and grandfathers, who figured their day in the theatre of the world. In a little time, we will be the ancestors of a future age. Posterity will talk of us as of the men that are gone, and our remembrance will soon depart from the face of the country. When we attend the burial of an acquaintance, we see the bones of the men of other times-in a few years, our bodies will be mangled by the power of corruption, and be thrown up in loose and scattered fragments among the earth of the new made grave. When we wander among the tombstones of the church-yard, we can scarcely follow the mutilated letters that compose the simple story of the inhabitant below. In a little time, and the tomb that covers us, will moulder by the power of the seasons-and the letters will be eaten away-and the story that was to perpetuate our remembrance, will elude the gaze of some future inquirer.

For death is at work upon all ages. The fever of a few days may hurry the likeliest of us all from this land of mortality. The cold of a few weeks may settle into some lingering but irrecoverable disease. In one instant the blood of him who has the promise of many years, may cease its circulation. Accident may assail us. A slight fall may precipitate us into eternity. An exposure to rain may lay us on the bed of our last sickness, from which we are never more to rise. A little spark may kindle the midnight conflagration, which lays a house and its inhabitants in ashes. A stroke of lightning may arrest the current of life in a twinkling. A gust of wind may overturn the vessel, and lay the unwary passenger in a watery grave. A thousand dangers beset us on the slippery path of this world; and no age is exempted from them-and from the infant that hangs on its mother's bosom, to the old man who sinks under the decrepitude of years, we see death in all its woful and affecting varieties.

You may think it strange-but even still we fear, we may have done little in the way of sending a fruitful impression into your consciences. We are too well aware of the distinction between seriousness of feeling, and seriousness of principle, to think that upon the strength of any such moving representation as we are now indulging in, we shall be able to dissipate that confounded spell which chains you to the world, to reclaim your wandering affections, or to send you back to your weekday business more pure and more heavenly. But sure we are you ought to be convinced, how that all which binds you so cleavingly to the dust is infatuation and vanity; that there is something most lamentably wrong in your being carried away by the delusions of time-and this is a conviction which should make you feel restless and dissatisfied. We are well aware that it is not human eloquence, or human illustration, that can accomplish a victory over the obstinate principles of human corruption--and therefore it is that we feel as if we did not advance aright through a single step of a sermon, unless we look for the influences of that mighty Spirit, who alone is able to enlighten and arrest you-and may employ even so humble an instrument as the voice of a fellow mortal, to send into your heart the inspiration of understanding.

We know that time is short, but none of us know how short. We know that it will not go beyond a certain limit of years; but none of us know how small the number of years, or months, or days may be.

I now shortly insist on the truth, that the things which are not seen are eternal. No man hath seen God at any time, and he is eternal. It is said of Christ, "whom having not seen, we love, and he is the same to-day, yesterday, and for ever." It is said of the Spirit, that, like the wind of heaven he eludes the observation, and no man can tell of him whence he cometh, or

whither he goeth-and he is called the heart all alive to religion, and sensibly afEternal Spirit, through whom the Son of- fected with its charms, and its seriousness, fered himself up without spot unto God. and its principle. Now, my brethren, I will We are quite aware, that the idea suggest-venture to say, that there may be world ed by the eternal things which are spoken of all this kind of enthusiasm, with the of in our text, is heaven, with all its cir-very man who is not moving a single step cumstances of splendour and enjoyment. towards that blessed eternity, over which This is an object which, even on the prin- his fancy delights to expatiate. The movciples of taste, we take a delight in contem- ing representation of the preacher may be plating; and it is also an object set before listened to as a pleasant song-and the enus in the Scriptures, though with a very tertained hearer return to all the inveterate sparing and reserved hand. All the de-habits of one of the children of this world. scriptions we have of heaven there, are It is this, my brethren, which makes me general, very general. We read of the fear that a power of deceitfulness may acbeauty of the heavenly crown, of the un- company the eloquence of the pulpit-that fading nature of the heavenly inheritance, the wisdom of words may defeat the great of the splendour of the heavenly city-and object of a practical work upon the conthese have been seized upon by men of science-that a something short of a real imagination, who, in the construction of business change in the heart, and in the their fancied paradise, have embellished it principles of acting, may satisfy the man with every image of peace, and bliss, and who listens, and admires, and resigns his loveliness; and, at all events, have thrown every feeling to the magic of an impressive over it that most kindling of all concep- description-that, strangely compounded tions, the magnificence of eternity. Now, beings as we are, broken loose from God, such a picture as this has the certain effect and proving it by the habitual voidness of of ministering delight to every glowing our hearts to a sense of his authority, and and susceptible imagination. And here lies of his will; that, blind to the realities of anthe deep-laid delusion, which we have oc- other world, and slaves to the wretched incasionally hinted at. A man listens, in fatuation which makes us cleave with the the first instance, to a pathetic and high- full bent of our affections to the one by wrought narrative on the vanities of time which we are visibly and immediately sur-and it touches him even to the tenderness rounded; that utterly unable, by nature, of tears. He looks, in the second instance, to live above the present scene, while its to the fascinating perspective of another cares, and its interests are plying us every scene, rising in all the glories of immor- hour with their urgency; that the prey of tality from the dark ruins of the tomb, and evil passions which darken and distract the he feels within him all those ravishments inner man, and throw us at a wider dis

of fancy, which any vision of united gran-tance from the holy Being who forbids the deur and loveliness would inspire. Take indulgence of them; and yet with all this these two together, and you have a man weight of corruption about us, having minds weeping over the transient vanities of an that can seize the vastness of some great ever-shifting world, and mixing with all conception, and can therefore rejoice in the this softness, an elevation of thought and expanding loftiness of its own thoughts, as of prospect, as he looks through the vista it dwells on the wonders of eternity; and of a futurity, losing itself in the mighty having hearts that can move to the impulse range of thousands and thousands of cen- of a tender consideration, and can, thereturies. And at this point the delusion fore, sadden into melancholy at the dark comes in, that here is a man who is all that picture of death, and its unrelenting cruelreligion would have him to be-a man ties; and having fancies that can brighten weaned from the littleness of the paltry to the cheerful colouring of some pleasing scene that is around him-soaring high and hopeful representation, and can, thereabove all the evanescence of things present, fore, be soothed and animated when some and things sensible-and transferring every sketch is laid before it of a pious family affection of his soul to the durabilities of a emerging from a common sepulchre, and pure and immortal region. It were better on the morning of their joyful resurrection, if this high state of occasional impress- forgetting all the sorrows and separations ment on the matters of time and of eternity, of the dark world that has now rolled over had only the effect of imposing the false-them---O, my brethren, we fear, we greatly hood on others, that man who was so fear it, that while busied with topics such touched and so transported, had on that as these, many a hearer may weep, or be single account the temper of a candidate elevated, or take pleasure in the touching for heaven. But the falsehood takes pos-imagery that is made to play around him, session of his own heart. The man is while the dust of this perishable earth is all pleased with his emotions and his tears--that his soul cleaves to; and its cheating and the interpretation he puts upon them vanities are all that his heart cares for, or is, that they come out of the fullness of a his footsteps follow after.

« FöregåendeFortsätt »