Images de page

and the animal is foon complete in all its faculties and powers. Man ripens more slowly, because he ripens for immortality. Those enjoyments and pursuits of man also, which do not belong to him as an immortal being, come soon to their period. Amusement, when continued long, becomes a fatigue. In pleasure there is a point, beyond which, if it be carried, it is pleasure no more, it turns into pain. The pursuits of greatness too, are very limited, and the race of honor is foon run. After many a weary step, the votary of ambition finds that he has been running in a circle, and that he is come to the selfsame point from which he set out. Mind, mind alone, contains in itself the principle of progreffion and improvement without end. There is no ultimate power in the progress of man: there is no termination to the career of an immortal spirit. The dominions of earthly greatness are circumscribed within narrow limits, and the hero has often wished for new countries to conquer : but the empire of the mind has no limit nor boundary; and we can never arrive at that period, where we may say, Hitherto can we go, but no further. Never have we learned so much, but we may learn more. Suppose life never so long, if the powers remain, new paths to science inay be struck out, fresh accessions of knowledge may be made. And we know from experience, that the largest measure of knowledge proves no burden to the mind, nor weakens its powers; but that, on the contrary, the capacity enlarges with the acquisition, and that men, the more they have learned, the more apt they are to learn; the less is their labour, and the easier their progress.


Improvements in goodness keep pace with improvements in wisdom. Repeated acts of obedience grow into habit; the penitent is confirmed in righteousness, and he that is holy becomes holier still. From the fulness which is in God, he adds

grace to grace. The day of small things fhineth more and more; and that day is succeeded by no night. The pilgrims, who at first set out feeble and faint, grow vigorous as they advance, going forward from strength to strength; ascending from one degree of goodness to another, they approach the everlasting hills, and, coming within the sphere of heaven, they inhale the spirit of their native region, they feel the attractions of the uncreated beauty, they receive a foretaste of the fruits of life, and, with hearts already full of heaven, and with tongues already tuned to the songs above, they put on the brightness of angels, and enter into the mansions of paradise. In the third place, The value of the soul will fur

if we consider that it is immortal. All human things foon come to an end. Temporal poffeflions and earthly greatness have a short date. The world itself is for ever changing; the fashion thereof passes away, and he who knows it in one age, in the next would not know it again. How hort lived are the enjoyments of this mortal state! Although the flowers of transient joy, more, hardy than the gourd of Jonah, may outlive the heat of the morning, and glow amid the blaze of noon, yet when the blast of evening comes, they are nipt and wither away. Ambition too has its day, and often a short one. Its votaries feem to be raised, but the more sensibly to feel their fall. The same whirlwind that snatches

ther appear,

[ocr errors]

them up from the crowd, brings them down at even with tenfold fury. Not to mention these more violent revolutions, its natural period foon comes. .lle who runs the race of human glory, is lost in the very dust that is raised around him. And such is the fudden end of all terrestrial enjoyments, when, after the study and the labour of years, we have with much pains and care gathered together the requisites and materials of a happy life, and say to ourselves, “ Soul, o take thine ease, thou hast goods laid up for many

years,” the warning voice is heard, “ Thou fovi, " this night thy foul shall be required of thee.” So transient is the date, so short the day of power, and pleasure, and greatness ! But wisdom never dies; but virtue is immortal. We have a higher life than that which beats in the pulse, and when the dust rcturns to the dust as it was, the spirit returns to God who gave it. It is indeed an awful, though a pleafing thought that we have an eternity before us. When the sun shall be extinguished in eternal darkness, when the heavens shall be rolled together like a scroll, when the earth with all its works shall be difsolved, the soul shall survive the general wreck, and exult in the enjoyment of youth immortal! To think of an infinity of years of existence enduring beyond all the numbers which we can add together, beyond all the millions of ages which figures can comprehend, and that, when all this vast sum of duration is expended, our existence is but just beginning, is, indeed, beyond imagination to grasp. Never to come to an end, never to be nearer an end, is indeed amazing, overwhelming, and incomprehensible to the mind. But such is thine inheritance, () man!

“ Because I live," saith the Lord," ye shall live al« fo.” Our duration shall be coeval with His years who fits upon the throne for ever; the Ancient of days, who is, and was, and is to come.

In the last place, To show you the value of the soul still more, after death its state is unalterable. This is our state of probation, and now is the time to fix the character for eternity. This is the spring-time of everlasting life; according as we now sow, here. after we shall reap; on our present conduct, depends our happiness or misery for ever. There is neither repentance nor apostasy beyond the grave. The righteous can never fall away, and to the wicked there remaineth no more sacrifice for fin. From the judgment-seat of the Immutable, the voice is heard, “ He that is righteous, let him be righteous still ; "and he that is unjust, let him be unjust still.”

But even here, too, appears that goodness of God which is over all his works. For while we know not of any addition to the torments of the wicked, the happiness of the righteous shall be for ever on the increase. That capacity of improvement which we formerly ascribed to the soul, is a capacity of improvement without end. The progress which begins here, is carried on hereafter. Heaven is indeed the residence of the spirits of just men made perfect; but it is not to be imagined, that they are all at once advanced to a perfection which they shall not to eterni. ty exceed. They will indeed find their state happy, when they are taken from this world; they will all be presented without spot or blemish in the presence of God, with exceeding joy; but still there is room left for their improvement in perfection and happiness. It cannot indeed, be otherwise. For the more we know of the Divine perfections and works, our veneration and love of God will increase the more. Now, it is impossible that we can ever know so much of God and his works, but that we may know more. As our knowledge of God, therefore, and our views of the Divine glory will be enlarged without end, our love and admiration of him will also increase for ever.

And in proportion to our love, our assimilation to the Divine nature, and our joy in the Lord, will be. What a prospect, o christian, does this open up to thy mind! Here thou art at liberty to expatiate at large! Here is a noble field for thy contemplation! There is a time appointed when thou shalt occupy that station which is now occupied by the highest angel in heaven. Not that we shall overtake the angels in their course, or, in the career of immortality, press upon natures of a superior order ; but that we shall make advances in moral perfections, and improve in the beauties of immortality. God shall behold his great family for ever brightening in holiness; for ever drawing nearer and nearer in likeness to himself. The river of their pleasures increases as it rolls. The fulness of their joy grows more and more full. Throughout all the ages of eternity, there is still a heaven which is to come ; still a glory which is to be revealed.

If the soul then be of such infinite value, how inexpressibly great must the loss of it be! Over the mansions of utter darkness, the Scriptures draw a veil which does not authorise our conjectures. What is comprehended under these awful emblems, the worm that never dies, the fire that is not quench

« PrécédentContinuer »