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• Such being the sober, although sublime, facts of their case, we are...! fully warranted to believe, that in our own case, the duties of life are as well-pleasing to God, in their own place and proportion, as the duties of godliness. It would neither be manly nor godly piety, to prefer life of mere musing, however spiritual, to a life of alternate and blended diligence and devotion. For, if angels do more than meditate and worship, it indicates sloth and weakness, rather than high heavenly-mind, edness, to shrink from industry, or to regret the necessity of labor.
It is, however, arrant mental weakness, as well as arrogant impiety, to set
the claims of time against the claims of eternity. They only clash, when they are made to clash. In themselves they are neither in compatible nor inconsistent. In fact, they are intended and adapted by God, to help each other. The cares of this world make the world to come desirable ; and the glories of heaven make the glooms of earth tolerable. He, therefore, who lives only for time, levels himself with the beasts that perish. He may build a finer house than the beaver, and amass more stores than the bee, and travel farther than a bird of passage, and rival the butterfly in show, and the nightingale in song, but, if these things engross his soul, and absorb all his time, his rational powers are let down to mere animal instincts; and the results of his life have no more relation to heaven, than the songs of a bird, or the pursuits of a beast. Is this manly ?? pp. 15–17.
These are pursuits of a more elevated character, because they are intellectual; but it is unmanly to make them the principal thing, because they are temporal.
Dr. Johnson has well said, “ It is only whatever gives the past and the future a predominance over the present, that can raise us in the scale of thinking beings :” if, therefore, the present predominate over both, we must even sink on that scale. This is inevitable. There are, it indeed, men who rise to the beights of philosophy and poetry, by their familiarity with the past. The wisdom of ages is in their lips, and the wealth of history at their command. They are far-sighted in legislation, and all tact in literature. And, could time past return, they, of all men, would be best prepared to mingle with the mighty dead, and to accommodate themselves to the ancient forms and feelings of society They would be at home with Plato in his taste, and with Homer in his patriotism, and Socrates in his sagacity. But as time past cannot return, this predominance of the past over the future, is as irrational as the predominance of the present, because equally irrelevant to eternity
I do not underrate such knowledge. He is no ordinary thinker, who can amass and apply it. It is, however, no preparation for the society of angels, nor for the fellowship of the general assembly of the spirits of just men made perfect. The mere antiquary, philosopher, or poet, however high on the scale of intellect, is low on the scale of wisdom, is he can prefer an ideal communion with antiquity, to real preparation for eternity. Besides, if it be noble to make all the lights of the past bear upon the present, either as beacons to warn, or as lusters to beautify, it
Dust be ignoble and unmanly to let in none of the lights of immortality upon the present. Why should they be excluded ? The history of time s not so well authenticated as the revelation of eternity. And if the fate of heroes, or the fall of empires, teach any useful lessons, surely the final destinies of the universe cannot be uninstructive. Gain, by all means, an acquaintance with former ages. A knowledge of what has been, will enable you to appreciate what is ; and thus operate as a check on personal vanity and political extravagance. It is, however, wbat shall be—that alone can prevent you from living for this world, or prepare you for the world to come.
This remonstrance against the neglect of eternal things, and the echoes to it which your own conscience returns, must not be silenced Dor disposed of by your intention to look eternity fully in the face, when you are older. Older is an uncertain event. And if it were not so, it is an unmanly excuse. You are old enough to understand, and to act spon, the reasons for looking the claims of this world full in the face. You feel already that you have no time to lose, if you would improve your education or your condition. At least you see clearly how much time and thought would be requisite, in order to realize all that you desite. You ought, therefore, to despise all subterfuges. “The world to come,” is not a secret nor a mystery. There are, indeed, both secrets and mysteries belonging to it; but as a state of eternal bliss or woe, it stands out as palpably as the alternation of light and darkness in this world. Indeed, it is far more certain how your principles and character will determine your eternal state, than how they will fix your temporal condition. You may fail to rise in this world, without being to blame; but you cannot sink into hell, but by your own fault. You may be disappointed, undeservedly, so far as man is concerned, of setiling down in the rank or the relationship which you set your heart upon; but you cannot miss heaven, if you set your heart upon it. There 15 do lottery in eternal life, however temporal life may be one.
In like manner, there is no such mystery about the way of salvation, as renders the experience of old age necessary in order to understand it
. There are, indeed, mysteries in the plan of redemption, as well as in nature and providence ; but it is not " length of days” that clears them up. It may suit the convenience of the worldly, the idle, and the sensual
, to pretend that they know not what to believe : but, whilst they are so dexterous in evading what they ought to obey, (about which there is no mystery,) it will not be uncharitable to suspect, that they see more clearly than they choose to acknowledge, how the belief of the gospel would involve obedience. And, what else are your evasions of the immediate claims of salvation and eternity, but a betrayal of an unconfessed fact, that you know enough to render your indecision inexcusable ? Yes, indeed ; a glass that could concentrate into a focus, all the rays of scriptural light which float and flutter around your understanding and conscience, and which should then throw the embodied blaze upon eternity
, would startle you at your smiling indecision. For you know, that
everlasting song of heaven is, redemption through the blood of the Lamb; and, therefore, to take no interest in that song until the evening of life, is infamous. You know, that without holiness no man shall see
the Lord ; and, therefore, not to follow holiness until you come to the last stage of the journey of life, is base cowardice, or baser rebellion, You know, that except you are born again of the Spiril, you cannot enter into the kingdom of God; and, therefore, not to pray for the promised and indispensable renewing of the Holy Ghost, or not to yield te his strivings, is both ingratitude and insult. And then, what aggravate the whole, is, that you expect to enter heaven at last, although it be the last thing you now think about, and the least thing in your present es timate of happiness.
How would all this tell at the bar of God? When your disembodiet spirit does take its place at His tribunal, it must give " an account". both the deeds done in the body, and of all the motives from which they were done. Well, just try, for a moment, how your present reasons for delay and indecision would bear telling in the presence of God. Per haps they would not tell well, even to your sister or your mother. Yor could, of course, make out a case to them, somewhat plausible and sa tisfactory ; but, could you submit it to God, if you were before God? I mean, if you were before His tribunal, beneath the visible glance of His omniscient eye, with all heaven around you, and the weight of eter: nity pressing on your spirit? Thus you must give in your account ! What, then, is the use of getting up an account to others, which cannot be given in to Him? You would not attempt to pass off, upon your mother or your sister, the explanations of your indecision, which you would give to a person who knew less of your habits and spirit: and, if your heart condemn
before them, “God is greater than your heart, and knoweth all things.” pp. 19–25.
2. On manly estimates of true wisdom. In the estimation of one who regards his relation to both worlds
, nothing can deserve the name of wisdom, which leaves God unknown, and immortality undefined. That only is true wisdom, which makes frail, erring, sinful man "wise unto salvation.” It was not, therefore, an unfounded charge, when Paul called the wisdom of the wisest heathen, “ foolishness;" and what these " giants of philosophy” could not do," the puny dwarfs” of modern infidelity would in vain attempt. The men themselves were any thing but fools. In talents and in application, they were the master-spirits of the world. Never was more mind concentrated in the study of wisdom. If searching could have found out God, or unveiled eternity, they would have made the discovery. But all did not avail. The world pronounced their wisdom foolishness, when God made Christ “wisdom” unto men; and now it is as impossible to make men Platonists as it is to make them Druids. No system has even the appearance of wisdom, but from the christianity that is in it. We have, therefore, no occasion to ask the old question, Where shall wisdom be found ? for, although as in the time of Job, the depths and the sea still say,
It is not in me, and although destruction and death can only say, We have heard
the fame thereof with our ears, the gospel says, It is in me, and proves the assertion true, by pointing to myriads whose character on earth, and whose place in heaven, demonstrate, that they have become wise unto salvation, by applying their hearts to what it tereals. This it is which exhibits the glory of God; which unfolds the mystery of redemption; which unveils the counsels of Providence; which brings life and immortality to light ; which shows the relation of the present world to the future ; informs us of our being's use and end; and powerfully awakens, encourages, and sustains us, in seeking for glory, honor and immortality.
It is the fullness of the Father's grace, and the brightness of the Son's moral glory. It is the maturest plan of infinite wisdom, and the loveliest form of infinite benevolence. The silence of the past eternity was first broken by its announcement, and the echoes of the future Eternity can never sleep for its celebration. The disclosure of the plan of salvation in heaven, drew around it, as students of the glorious mys
tery, all the armies of heaven ; and the successive revelations of it on 5. earth, made the patriarchs forget their pilgrimages—the prophets their perils—the apostles and martyrs their tortures.
This is the wisdom which solicits our attention; and it requires, as well as deserves, serious and fixed attention. Neither cherubim nor seraphim, angels nor archangels, deem themselves equal to appreciate er understand it, without looking into it. The first created spirit, as well as the last glorified infant, bends from his throne, or burns in his orbit
, with holy curiosity to comprehend its glories. Yes, and could all the varied knowledge of all the universe, be concentrated in one mind, even when all perfect minds are as powerful as the open vision of a completed heaven can render them; that mind would be studious still
, and first in zeal and zest for continued, and even increasing, attention to this wisdom. Still, no wonder! Redemption by the blood of the Lamb, concentrated the entire and intense energies of the infinite mind, upon its principles and designs. Omniscience never wearies of watching its progress; nor omnipotence of upholding its claims; nor providence of making all things work together for its good. Emmanuel " ever liveth to intercede for," and the Holy Spirit to help, all who apply their hearts unto this wisdom.
Such being the character and claims of the wisdom which maketh nike unto salvation, its own glories might well be expected to win the heart by their own attractions, however the heart was naturally disposed in itself
, or solicited by other objects. That which thus draws and absorbs the adoring admiration of beings who need no redemption, ought to gain, at once, our confidence and love ; for we need all the blessings of that great salvation, which they so greatly admire. But, alas
, we are capable of trifling with eternal redemption, and even inclined to shut our hearts against all its claims ! The very utmost that, of Our own accord, we are willing to do, is, to promise that some portion of the evening of life shall be set apart to meditation and prayer.
We have no natural inclination to number our days” now, in order to
apply our hearts now to wisdom. When our days on earth shal nearly numbered for us, by a power we cannot resist or evade, we no particular objection to weighing the claims of the gospel; be present, we hate the thought of death, and have no natural love to vation. Whatever we think or feel, at times, differently from springs from another source than our own nature.
Look, then, at your instinctive tendencies. They are all against eternal interests of your soul, and the immediate claims of true wis Even those tastes which are most intellectual and refined, prefer ha wisdom to divine. This is as unmanly, as it is ungodly. Ab thus averse to the great salvation, ought to shock and shame y pp. 31-34.
To many persons it seems a gloomy and forbidding employm to turn their thoughts with earnest and steady contemplation their latter end. But why is this, if not because they perce that without a change, to which they have no mind to subi their end must be dreadful? And is this either peaceful or mat To feel themselves drawn towards an event from which then no escape, which, coming upon them in their present stt would be too shocking to be steadily contemplated, and yet neglectful of that wisdom which alone can soften its aspect!' their end be less shocking, because now they choose not to think it? Let them give up this struggle of a reluctant heart against stil conviction ; let them be willing to see themselves in the light truth, and bring their feelings into obedience to their conscienc let them consider their latter end, and yield themselves, in ok dience to the gospel, to the work of preparing for it; and gloom which now hangs over the scene will be dissipated : the end will be the subject of pleasing anticipation and joyful hope.
You mistake egregiously, if you imagine that those who “ consid their latter end,” are convulsed or overwhelmed by the prospect. N indeed : those who, like Paul,“ die daily,” like him enjoy life daily Those who, like David, “ number their days, that they may apply the hearts unto wisdom,” are not terrified by night visions, nor thrown o the rack whenever they realize “ the valley of the shadow of death. These starts and storms are the portion of those who “put the evil da afar off.” Those who bring it near enough for holy purposes, are no haunted by it: for the fear of death, like the keys of death, is unde the providential government of the Savior, and thus regulated by Hi: wisdom, as well as alleviated by His grace. In a word, the fear a death is not allowed to embitter or sadden life, when life is consecrateu to the service of God.
Were this well weighed, the real connection between the acquisition of true piety, and the contemplation of death, would cease to appear repulsive. I say, the real connection between them, because it is quite different, both in kind and degree, from the relation you imagine them to bear unto each other. When you think of piety, you imme