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It was therefore no flourish of rhetoric, when the inspired Isaiah appealed to the heavens and the earth to bear testimony to the sins of Israel.
Let not the sinner think that his sins will be buried in oblivion. The darkness and the light are both alike to Him who, as well a thousand years hence, as at this moment, can read on the broad pages of the visible universe, the inscriptions graven there by our works and our words.
II. The book of Human Consciousness will be opened.
The human soul is not only a laboratory of thought-it is also a great storehouse, wherein are deposited its thoughts, emotions and volitions. Without material locks or bars it has a power of retention that far surpasses our conception. It is the inspector of its own contents-the inquisitor of its own state. This is indeed what we understand by consciousness-the knowledge of our own mental sensations and operations--the internal perception of self. Consciousness takes knowledge of what is constantly passing within, and memory stores up these impressions for the future. Memory is the broad page on which consciousness is ever writing the narrative of a soul's daily and hourly history. And this self-observing faculty of the mind acts as the guardian and interpreter of the memory. In our eager pursuit of pleasure or wealth, we try to forget the past, yet often before our astonished vision, sins perhaps long ago committed, start up as fresh as though of yesterday.
No faculty of soul is more certain in its action, than this power of perpetuating and retaining the past. Much we forget, and often regret that our memories are feeble, and our knowledge of past events dimmed. Yet vivid realizations of the past are greatly hindered by our want of effort, and by our endeavors to erase the inscriptions of past feelings and events. Yet slight causes will "bring back on the heart the weight which it would fling aside forever." And contrary to our wishes the dead past stands up before us. This power of recollection and involuntary consciousness is a matter of each man's experience.
There are times when memory seems roused to an unwonted energy--when consciousness, like the lightning's flash on a dark night, illumines with a most intense vividness the whole field of our moral history. The chambers of imagery, long veiled, are suddenly opened. Old thoughts and old schemes are brought glaringly to view.-Many now before me can attest the truth of this. The standing by a death couch, or the look into an open grave, or the hearing of a sermon from a faithful pastor, or a calm reproof from the lips of a parent-yea, even the rustling of a dead and withered leaf, may have been the means of recalling reflections and emotions long faded from recollection. Numerous are the well authenticated records of dying hours in which
the believing and the impenitent have found themselves confronted with scenes and mental acts that had long been forgotten. Death, like a mighty magician, brings these together and arrays them with terrible distinctness before the quickened senses of the departing spirit.
And why should we doubt that when the clog and clod of sense are dropped, that this consciousness of self will be vastly intensified. Little as we know of the world on the other side death, yet of this, reason and revelation both assure us-that there "we shall know, even as we are known."
There, the book of self will be opened. Partly through the craft of Satan, and partly on account of our own wilful obstinacy, self is now little understood, because little studied; or if studied, the work is conducted in such a spirit that we too often rise from our investigations, complacently self-deceived. But when the archangel's trump shall sound, each individual, instead of viewing, as now, the faults and crimes of others, will be summoned to contemplate "all that his thinking soul hath thought, for glory or for shame."
III. The book of Divine Remembrance will be opened.
Though nature fail, and consciousness be infirm, there is a being whose knowledge is infinite-by whom actions are weighed. Should creation's records be dimmed or effaced, there is nevertheless a record everlastingly vivid and immutably true-His mind to whom the darkness and the light are alike; who penetrates every disguise; who beholds at once the entireness of his universe, as also the parts which compose it.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for our comprehension. "Thou God seest me," said one of old, whose soul was deeply impressed with a sense of the divine presence! And he uttered a truth no less awful than it is certain.
We shrink from publicity when we would plan or act contrary to conscience. We desire not the presence of human witnesses to our guilt, either in thought or action. Crime courts concealment. Sin shuns the light of day. When the wicked act is done, the sinner endeavors to quiet his conscience, by the flattering unction that no man knoweth it. But in all these calculations of concealment one fact is overlooked and forgotten, viz., there is an ever present, an all beholding spirit--an eye whose lightning glance penetrates every concealment-which discerns all the thoughts and intents of the heart.
The divine knowledge never faileth. To the memory of the Infinite, the unchangeable God, there pertaineth no imperfection. All the acts of our intelligent being are treasured up in his recollection. The plans, thoughts, words, acts of our whole lifeall that has entered into the composition of our moral historyhowever much may have escaped our memory-all is deposited
in the treasury of God's knowledge. "The ways of man are before the eyes of the Lord, and He pondereth all his goings." "Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? saith the Lord." "All things are naked and open unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do."
Every thing relating to our individual characters will be brought to light. "For the Lord will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts." Aye, even the "counsels of the hearts."
THE EVERLASTING REST.
"There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God."-HEв. ix. 4.
Heaven is never presented to our view as a state of conflict. Having passed through his period of trial, the Christian will enter the world of holiness and bliss, never again to be subjected to the loss of his peace. Secured from falling, by an Almighty arm, there is no danger that he will ever apostatize. He will love and serve God in full accordance with his capacities; and he will evermore be surrounded by beings of the same character with himself. There will be no sinful propensities in his soul, struggling for the mastery; no consciousness of transgression; no painful regret for past errors; nothing of this nature to interrupt and destroy his peace. All the woes incident to our fallen, sinful nature will be excluded from the heavenly rest. The fear of poverty will not disquiet the mind, nor that of want oppress; the jealousies and envies of earth will there be unknown; nor can we think of any evil to which we are here subject, from which the Christian will not there be free; and, with his holiness, his bliss will then be perfect.
The employments of heaven will be such as to increase and perfect his joy. We reason from the nature of the mind, and its capacity for the acquisition of knowledge, that in heaven it will still be active; and it will make the study of the works of God a chief employment, and be engaged, with the angels, in all that conduces to the divine glory and its own happiness. Here, the body occupies a large proportion of care. But in the future state, all its wants will be provided for, so that our whole time may be actively devoted to serving God, in such rational and pleasurable pursuits, as may conduce to his glory and our good. The ideas common on this subject are strangely wrong, contradicting everything that we know of the nature of celestial feli
city and glory. It is not in idleness that the saints are to spend eternity. There must, and will be something for them to do, which will call into activity their holy and benevolent affections, or else heaven would soon become a dull place to them. Nor can we doubt that, in this respect, there is ample provision made. Heavenly happiness is represented by symbols drawn from material objects of beauty and grandeur. We are not to suppose that heaven presents to view a beautiful garden filled with choice fruit, or a crystal stream, or a city paved with gold; nor that there are in heaven harps of gold, and crowns and raiment pure and white; nor that our Father has a house there, and tables spread for the hungry, for these are only emblems, and are used to convey the idea of happiness to minds otherwise incapable of its conception. We should not therefore materialize heaven, but use these scriptural metaphors to heighten our ideas of its bliss.
There will be both pleasant and useful occupation in which the saints will be engaged. It is needless, however, to speculate, where the facts have not been revealed. And yet it is pleasant to think that there are innumerable ways of occupying ourselves in heaven. There is much yet to be learned of God, and of his works. Here, we gain only the rudiments of knowledge. Even Newton, at the close of life, could say, that he appeared to himself to have been like a little boy upon the seashore, picking up a smoother pebble and a prettier shell than ordinary, while the vast ocean of truth lay unexplored before him.
When we reflect that the whole of the boundless creation will in heaven be spread out to our view, that suns and systems of worlds will rise upon the astonished vision, and that new works of creation, new forms of matter, and fresh creations of mind, may occupy us with a view of Jehovah's wisdom for ever, we may feel assured that, to follow in the path which he thus opens before us, will give us enough to do, and even inspire us with fresh motives to adoration and praise.
Social friendship will there be enjoyed and perpetuated. Much of the pleasure of life is that derived from social intercourse. But, in heaven, this communion will be purely spiritual. As kindred minds naturally take pleasure in each other's society, so will it be in the everlasting rest. That the saints in heaven. will there recognize their friends, does not admit of a doubt. There we shall see as we are seen, and know as we are known. It greatly enhances the pleasure of anticipation to reflect, that the friendships begun on earth may be transferred to heaven, and there be perpetuated. No thought suggested in view of friends who sleep in Jesus, is more consoling. We know that they will be happy, and that abiding faithful, we shall join them in that kingdom of our Father. There is nothing which so effectually removes the sting of death, or imparts such consola
tion to the bereaved, as the thought that those we knew and loved on earth, and who have gone before us, may be deputed, by our Saviour, as ministering spirits, to convoy us home; so that, on dying, our eyes may be open, in eternity, on the friends who surround our dying bed, waiting to receive, and to welcome us to glory.
Does the parent rejoice in the return of a wandering son? How much higher, and holier, the joy of that parent in heaven, to meet his beloved child there, well knowing that every danger is now past, and that everlasting blessedness is, through sovereign grace, secured? The spirits of our friends in heaven are, as the angels of God, enjoying the same interest in each other, and ever susceptible to the same holy friendships. When it is reflected how greatly the happiness of life depends on such pleasant associations, can we doubt that the pleasures derived from this source are, in heaven, infinitely enhanced? Not only those we knew and loved on earth, but holy persons of past ages, will share our love. Beings of a higher grade will constitute part of the celestial society. The saints will mingle with the angels, partake of their knowledge, listen to their wisdom, and rejoice in their love.
But above all, the saints will there hold converse with God, and enjoy the blessedness resulting from communion, and intercourse with the Redeemer. They will feel a conscious joy in the thought, that the great and good Father, who sits upon the throne of the universe, is their friend.
What can equal such society, or confer such happiness? Friendships so exalted and glorious, formed on such a basis, and cemented by such relationships, will furnish every thing needed to make us happy.
And the happiness thus created for the blest will never terminate. The saints will have found the everlasting rest. Earth presents to view no such blessedness. In comparison with this, all its pleasures are trivial; its joys are transitory--here to-day— to-morrow-gone. Its friendships are often withered in an hour. All the pleasures that spring from earth bear the stamp of their earthly origin. But the rest of the saints is a state of blissful employment, and social intercourse and friendship, pure, spiritual, and eternal.
And this rest is as glorious as it is enduring. Heaven is a bright, a glorious place. It is pictured forth to view by the emblem of the golden city, adorned with precious stones, and illumined by God himself, whose glories are resplendent, and whose brightness casts the orb of light into the shade. While the world of the lost is described as darkness, heaven is set forth to view in all its splendors, as a place worthy to be the residence of the King of kings and Lord of lords.
Language fails to express the thoughts which cluster around that happy place, or to convey any suitable idea of that holy