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piness of the righteous may arise from generous and gradually successful exertions to reclaim their fallen and unhappy fellowcreatures ? This supposition is at least as rational, and it is far less painful, thau the vulgar creed concerning the torments of hell. And I am confident, that it is not less consistent with the doctrine of the New Testament.
To conclude. From what has been advanced in this discourse we infer the unspeakable value of the gospel dispensation, which hath brought life and immortality to light.
We also infer the encouragement which the gospel affords to virtuous friendship, for such friendships are everlasting.
Again. No friendships ought to be forrned but what are founded upon virtue, for none but these will endure for ever. Friendships cemented by vice, must terminate in misery; and they who have been partners in guilt, will probably be companions in condemnation.
Further. When virtuous friends are removed by death, how painful soever the separation, they know it will be but temporary; and that after a short interval they shall meet again to part no more. They sorrow not as others who have no hope,
Let virtuous friends therefore encourage and assist each other in the paths of wisdom and goodness. Let them emulate the excellences of those who are already departed, that they may be found worthy of being united to them again, in those regions of purity and bliss, where they shall make a continually accelerated progress
in knowledge, benevolence, and piety, to all eternity.
Let us then, my brethren, comfort one another with these words; and unite in thanksgivings to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who of his infinite mercy has begotten us again to this glorious hope, by the resurrection of his son Christ Jesus from the dead. Amen.
THE PRESENCE OF GOD IN HEAVEN AND HELL.
PSALM CXxxix. 8.
If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my
bed in hell, behold! thou art there.
The omnipresence and the omniscience of God are asserted in this elegant composition in the most expressive language. The sacred writer first acknowledges the intimate acquaintance of the Divine Being with himself, and with all his concerns. O Lord, thou hast searched me and known me. Thou knowest my down-sitting and my uprising : thou understandest my thought afar off. Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word upon my tongue but, lo! O Lord, thou knowesi it altogether. Thou has beset me behind
and before, and hast laid thy hand upon
He then proceeds to assert, in the most explicit language, the universal presence and inspection of God, and that if it were ever so much his desire and endeavour to screen himself from the divine presence and notice, and if he had it in his power to dart with the rapidity of lightning to the remotest verge of the universe, it would be all in vain. Whither shall I go from thy spirit, or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.
In common language the word heaven almost uniformly signifies the place of abode, and the happy state of the virtuous in a future life: and hell as uniformly expresses the place where the wicked are or will be hereafter punished. And when we ineet with these expressions, either in the Old
Testament or the New, we currently annex these significations to them, without troubling ourselves to inquire whether the sacred writers intended to express these ideas. The consequence is, that we commonly mistake their meaning.
In the writings of David, the supposed author of this sublime composition, the doctrine of a future life is seldom, if ever, unequivocally alluded to: and the place or state of the virtuous after death is never called heaven. Much less does the Psalmist ever distinguish the place of the future punishment of the wicked by the term, hell: for to such a state, or place, there is no allusion in any of his writings; nor are we sure that he entertained any expectation of it. We are told in the book of Genesis,* that “God made the firmament, or expanse, and divided the waters which were under the firmament, from the waters which were above the firmament, and that God called the firmament heaven.” It is plain from hence, that the author of that book
* Gen. i. 7.