« EelmineJätka »
Amos iv. 12.
Prepare to meet thy God, Ô Israel.
so stand before a just and avenging God;
1 to have all our secret sins and midnight follies, all our dark designs and treacherous machinations, all our frauds, perjuries, and oppressions laid open to men and angels; to have our nearest friends and dearest relatives in awful silence waiting to hear the dreadful sentence of eternal condemnation pronounced against us, is surely an idea the most solemn and tremendous that human imagination can conceive; and yet how little regarded by the generality of mankind! We live in thoughtless ease and listless affluence : we securely crop the tese-buds of the spring, the pleasures and vanities of the present moment, as if we had never heard of a future period of existence, or the earth we tread upon VOL. 115.
were destined for our everlasting habitation. We suffer the generations of men to glide away unnoticed; we see our benefactors, our friends, our enemies, successively drop into the silent grave; we behave as if the scene was there for ever closed; not considering, that we ourselves are suspended over the abyss of eternity by the slender thread of life, and that we shall soon appear together as joyful candidates for immortal glory, or trembling criminals at the bar of an almighty judge.
That this important truth should be thus generally neglected and disregarded, is still more amazing when we consider, that the proofs of it are obvious to every eye, and intelligible to every capacity. They are not hid beneath the shades of philosophic subtilty, or drawn froin the refinements of abstruse speculation ; they are not concealed under the mysterious cover of types and allegory, or deducible only by reinote, consequence and strained interpretation ; but they strongly force themselves upon the perceptions of unenlightened reason, and blaze out with resistless conviction in the sacred volumes of revelation. But since there is nothing so plain as not to be called in question by modern scepticism and infidelity, I will endeavour in the following discourse to shew at large,
. Ist, That
1st, That a judgment to come is clearly discoverable, by the light of nature originally given to all mankind, independent of any revelation, and that therefore all men, even infidels themselves, are bound to believe it.
2dly, That it was revealed in a particular inanner, though less fully, to the Jews : and,
3dly, That it was revealed in the fullest and clearest manner possible in the Gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
And, first, let us take a survey of the moral government of the world, that great volume of instruction which is open to the eye
every reasonable creature, and there the voice of nature will in the strongest terms declare to us the certainty of a future judgment: For we shall there behold virtue languishing in the shade of obscurity, or on the bed of disease, struggling with fruitless efforts against the tide of misfortune, or groaning beneath the scourge of the oppressor; destitute, afflicted, tormented:--thete too shall we behold vice, with length of days in her right hand, and in her left hand riches and honour; in every stage of life crowned with success, and at last descending to the grave,
unappalled by human censure, unblasted by divine vengeance.
And shall we imagine, that a wise God created the world to be thus a stage of anarchy and confusion, upon which the short-lived generations of men, after having for a while been the sport of fortune, should again drop into their primitive nothing? Shall we imagine, that one event shall close the labours of the just and the unjust, and that it shall be alike to him that feareth God' and him that feareth him not? Or shall we not rather conclude from this unequal distribution of happiness here, that there will hereafter be a state in which the Judge of all the earth shall clear up the present mazes of his Providence by an exact and equitable administration of justice?
This conclusion is so plain and undeniable, that we might here safely rest the cause we defend. But in a matter of so great importance God hath not commanded us to acquiesce in any single proof, or required our assent to deductions of reason, which may either escape our notice or exceed our compréhension ; but he hath even implanted in the very constitution of our nature clear and incontestible evidence of a judgment to come.
· For, from what other cause can we deduce the common and uniform consent of mankind in approving virtue and detesting vice, even where their own interest is not or cannot be concerned? Why, in every age, hath the discharge of a just duty, or the performance of a generous action, filled the mind with satisfaction and self-applause, even where there has been neither prospect of present advantage to repay the one, nor of future fame to reward the other? Is it not clearly because his conscience tells the virtuous sufferer, 'that God has reserved that reward for him in heaven, which the injustice of man withholds from him on earth? Why again, for example, does the Asiatic plunderer sit joyless amidst the fruits of his rapine, or fly to the haunts of intemperance to seek refuge from his own reflections, even when his dark contrivances have escaped the eye of huinan justice, and he dreads not the scourges of human punishment ? Is it not because he feels within him the whips and scorpions of conscience, which tells him that injured millions are crying out against him for justice, and that his crimes cannot be hidden from the eye of that God, who will hereafter give to every man according to his works: What there
fore can we conclude, but that this is the voice • of God and nature, which thus forcibly speaks in the hearts of all men, and by the powerful D 3