Page images
PDF
EPUB

zing impression of eternal things. They apprehended and felt the great realities of the world to come. God was to them a living reality. The risen and ascended Savior was to them a reality. Heaven was to their minds a blessed reality, and hell was to their minds a dreadful reality ; and they prayed, and felt, and lived accordingly. How happy were they in trials ! How readily, and even joyfully, did they perform their duties in the cause of Christ ! Nothing moved them. They counted not their lives dear unto them, when compared with their duty, and with the end of their course. Nor was this experience of the early christians peculiar to themselves, or to their age. Some christians in every age have acquired, and habitually maintained, impressive views of the great realities of the future world. That world has seemed to them to be ever near; its solemnities and its joys have breathed an influence into their hearts, which went with them wherever they went, and was seen in all they did. Need we mention, as examples, sucb pames as Brainerd, Martyn, Payson, and others of this stamp, with whose memoirs our readers are all familiar? Now, what should hinder christians in general from acquiring substantially a similar state of mind, provided they felt the importance of it, and would adopt the requisite means to that end? What young man in the school of Christ, who shall cast his eye upon these pages, cannot acquire that deep impression of the realities of christianity, in relation to the coming world, which James B. Taylor felt and manifested? This state of mind is attainable by christians at large. No christian need despair of it. And surely, it is a desirable state of mind. How does it enable us to bear up under trials! How does it add 10 our spiritual comfort! How does it disengage the affections from the vanities of time! How does it bring eternal glories near! How does it fortify the heart against the power of temptation! How does it strengthen every good purpose, and help us to perform our duty, in the most disheartening and trying circumstances! What duty could we shrink from, had we clear views of the future and eternal state of the dead? What trial, incident to our condition on earth, would be accounted great, had we a distinct

apprehension of the reward which is to be bereafter administered to the faithful? O, what a motive is there in the objects of eternity, to bind us to a life of holiness! Nor is this all. The highest good of others demands, that we should cultivate this state of mind. We live in society. Hundreds and thousands of our fellow men are, in one degree or another, taking their character from ours, and receiving a right or wrong impulse for eternity from us.

Who can estimate the amount of influence which clear and habitual apprehensions of the things of the future world, would prepare us to exert? What a sweet savor would such a state of mind impart to our conversation ; what an unction to our devotional exercises ; what weight and wisdom to our counsels ; what strength and solidity to our entire character; and in these ways, what a large accession to the present sum of our usefulness ! Principles and views whose influence is limited to this world, do not reach far enough, allow them all the correctness and force that we can,) to do much good. Besides their wanting power to take much hold of us, their circle of objects is too narrow to allow of their accomplishing any great amount of good to mankind. But, when the mind has become imbued with those principles and views which look on to the future world, and which contemplate the condition of man, not merely as it is, but as it will be ; then, manifestly, the amount of influence tending to the good of others, which such a mind is prepared to exert, is greatly augmented. Now this is, in one point of view, the appropriate and peculiar power of the principles of christianity. They take hold upon eternity: they link the future world to the present: they look right on over death, to the boundlessness of the prospect beyond. How great then is the obligation which rests upon us, to have the mind imbued deeply with these principles, so as to live habitually under a realizing sense of the revealed objects of the future world! On this subject, Mr. Philip has the following striking observations :

Whatever scrutiny or remonstrance breathes in these remarks, is not uncalled for by the usual state of our minds. Slight views of eternal life are one great cause of our slight hold on the hope of salvation. A deeper acquaintance with immortality, in all its revealed forms, would compel us to take and keep a firmer grasp of the cross. Were we daily,“ looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life,” as well as unto a holy and tranquil life, both our faith and prayers would breathe another spirit than they usually do; and thus we should soon have no occasion for the common complaint, that our hope of heaven is too weak to weigh much against the trials of life. Let eternity dictate the measure of faith in Christ which its own solemnity deserves; and this will lead to such solid building, and to such steady resting upon the Rock of Ages, that we shall soon have a hope so full of immortality, that, like the first believers, we shall be able to counterbalance the things which are seen and temporal, by the things which are unseen and eternal. And, surely, if the martyrs could do so, we well may, under our lighter afflictions. It is, therefore, interest to acquire such a hold upon heaven, as shall really be of use to us in time of trouble. Nothing aggravates trouble so much as a dark cloud on our eternal prospects. We have need of all our time and strength for the due exercise of patience and resignation in the evil day, instead of having to clear up, then, the agitating question of personal safety. Let us not, therefore, believe the gospel so vaguely and vapidly now, nor obey the law so partially now, that when the dark side of the pillar of time turns upon us, the dark side of the pillar of eternity should turn upon us too. There is no occasion for such a con

our own

[ocr errors]

jaction, as the fear of “the blackness of darkness," blending with the clouds of temporal calamity.

We owe it also unto others to cultivate such a hope of glory, as shall have a visible influence upon our spirits, as well as upon our character; and upon our conversation, as well as our conduct." Withct worth of character, no testimony to the worth of religion will have or weight in our family, or social circle. It is not enough, however, sat both our careless and undecided friends should be constrained, by su general character, to conclude, “that if any get to heaven we stall.” Our words, as well as our works, should aid in lodging this conviction in their minds. We ought to speak of “ our inheritance with the saints in light,” as well as cultivate meetness for it. The first believers not only thought of heaven, and prepared for it, they also avowed and proclaimed the pleasure they found in looking forward to it as rest from their labors, and as freedom from their imperfections. They did not leave the inference of their safety to be drawn by others caly ; they drew it themselves also. They were wise enough, and Danly enough, to judge, that a character and spirit which even tte enemies of the gospel could not quote against the gospel, warranted them to consider themselves as heirs of eternal life. They did not, therefore, allow it to depend on the candor and conscience of others, whether this conclusion should be drawn or bot. It was too important to be left to public caprice ; and, therefore, they drew it themselves. “We, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth.' “ We know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” we have borne the image of the earthly, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly." This was speaking out, on the subject of christian bope! Yes; and yet it was saying no more than God had warranted. It is only what all may and ought to avow, who are relying on Christ for a holy salvation.

Now such a testimony, when not contradicted by the character of the witness, could not fail to commend the gospel. It would bring our relations and friends to the point. “Here,” they must confess, “ is present happiness, as well as a strong probability of eternal happi

" As

Dess.

pp. 16–19.

[ocr errors]

2. But, though the duty in question is plain, and of great importance to the christian's comfort and usefulness, yet there are not a lew who would seem to wish to be excused from the practice of it. We will attend for a moment to their excuses. These may all be summed up in two. First, it is common for worldly-minded christians to feel, that their various cares and necessary engagements in the present world, unavoidably hinder any fixed and realizing contemplations of the future. But is this truly so ? Have we been formed for immortality, and placed here to get ready for it, and had a written revelation given us respecting it; and yet is it true that our condition in the present world is such, our cares and

our duties here are so numerous and pressing, that we canno realize the solemnities of eternity? We may not wish to do it but that we cannot is contradicted, as we have shown under th last head, by facts. Many christians have acquired this state of mind, and have lived and died under its happy influence And we too can acquire it if we will, and can have its blessed in fluence to direct our path through life, and to give peace and triumph in our dying hour. It looks like an impeachment of the wisdom and goodness of God to suppose, that he has made us ac countable to him, and set before us the great realities of the future world, as our principal motives to action here, and then so loaded us with cares and duties pertaining to the present world, as that the principal motives to action, which he has himself thus set be. fore us and commanded us to obey, should unavoidably lose their power over us, and become in a great measure inoperative and useless. Such an imputation is certainly not to be cast upon a Being of infinite wisdom and benevolence. It is urged as a second excuse for not realizing the things of the world to come, that they have not been distinctly made known to us, and cannot, therefore, be distinctly contemplated by us. The blessedness of heaven, it is said, is an idea so indefinite in our minds, and the language by which that idea is held out to us in the scriptures, is so metaphorical, that it is impossible to entertain any realizing conceptions respecting it, or to learn what it is. To this objection it may be replied, that many of the representations of heaven contained in the scriptures, are indeed highly figurative. That world is frequently set forth to us by means of known and sensible objects, these objects being mere emblems or images of the things intended, and are not designed of themselves to give us any definite ideas of the glory of that world. Such are the following: the river of life; harps of gold; palms of victory; white robes; the new song ; the crown of glory; the acclaiming multitude as the sound of many waters, and mighty thunderings. These are, indeed, metaphorical expressions. But are there not other representations besides these, -representations in which the sensible imagery is dropped, and the nature of heaven is taught plainly? Perfect holiness is every where represented by the sacred writers, as belonging to the heavenly world. Is not this an intelligible idea ? The presence of Christ is exhibited as belonging to that world. Is not this an intelligible idea ? A great increase of knowledge is represented as belonging to that world. Above all, the favor of God, unmingled and uninterrupted, is set forth as the crowning blessedness of that world. And do not these things disclose to us, with a sufficient degree of definiteness, the nature of that world, so that we can realize, even here, many things respecting it? For example, do we not know enough of the loveliness, and

the beneficent tendencies of virtue in this present world, to understand something of the happiness which must reign in a world where all are virtuous beings, and where virtue is the sole character which these beings sustain? And in regard to the presence of Christ, do we not know enough here in respect to his character and offices, to perceive definitely, (as well as truly,) that a world where direct communion with him is to be enjoyed, must be a hapyy world? And of the pleasures of refined social intercourse beIween man and man, has not the christian learned enough on earth to understand, that when that intercourse shall become the intercourse of beings perfectly excellent and lovely, and in a world, too, Etted in every respect to be the residence of such beings, there peace and joy must fix their peculiar abode ? Now, what if the scriptures do employ imagery, and the boldest style of imagery, to aid our conceptions of the glory of heaven, and to draw our attention to it; they also give us some previous and more precise information pouching the things of that delightful world. They describe the qualibcations for that world, in terms so simple that none can misunderstand them. They tell what sort of society will be found there, and the nature and foundation of their happiness. Is it then true, that we are necessarily shut out, as much as some would have us believe, from any just and realizing views of that world?

But it is said, that the happiness of heaven is described to us by mere negatives, and that these negatives convey to us no distinct information on the subject of what heaven is, and in what its joys do positively consist. Let us examine and see. The negatives referred to are such as these: There shall be no night there ; no sorrow and sighing ; no pain ; no death ; no more curse ; for the former things are passed away. Now, do such declarations as these convey no positive information ? Do they reveal to us nothing on which the mind can fasten, as palpably and positively desirable ? Suppose you tell a sick man, who is tossing upon a bed of pain, and wearing out the slow and tedious bours of night in watching for the morning, that when the mornng coines he shall toss no longer on that bed of pain, but shall find relief from all his present sufferings, and never again be sick.

you conveyed no positive information to his mind? Have you given him no definite idea of the good before him ? Have you told him nothing which he can realize, (provided he believes it,) with hope and joy ? Or, to render the case still plainer, suppose Fourself to be the sufferer. God has sent affliction upou you, and you are laboring under a load of disappointment and sorrow. Now is there nothing definite and positive in the assurance that in 2 litle while,-only bear up with a becoming spirit under the cial,—and all your tears shall be wiped away, and the days of your mourning shall be ended? Or you feel oppressed with a

Have

« PreviousContinue »