Billeder på siden





An Argument, or Apology, (for either of these words will denote that undertaking to which I now address myself in devout dependence upon Almighty God) ought, as is the manner of ordinary judicial questions, First, To choose the tribunal before which the question is to be tried ; Secondly, To define the exact point which is brought into issue; and, Thirdly, To open up the line of argument or defence that is to be pursued. These preliminaries we shall now settle with our readers, before whose unbiassed judgments we are about to propound the merits of the most momentous question that ever came before them for a verdict.

The tribunal before which we choose to plead this most grave and momentous question, is the whole reason or understanding of man. Not his intellect merely, to which common arguments are addressed, but his affections, his interests, his hopes, his fears, his wishes, in one word, bis

[ocr errors]

whole undivided soul. It is not with the intention of confusing his judgment, that we will endeavour to take his human nature upon every side, but because we think our case so important and so good as to solicit the verdict of every faculty which human nature possesseth. We feel that questions touching the truths of revelation have been too long treated in a logical or scholastic method, which doth address itself to I know not what fraction of the mind; and not finding this used in Scripture, or successful in practice, we are disposed to try another method, and appeal our cause to every sympathy of the soul which it doth naturally bear upon. We shall speak, according as it suits the topic in hand, to the parts of human nature which the poet addresseth, to the parts of human nature which the economist addresseth, no less than to those which the logician addresseth. Nevertheless, after a logical method we shall do so; that is, we shall present before these affections of the mind our question in a fair and undisguised form, without fear and without partiality. Therefore, all we ask of our reader, who is our judge, is to have the eyes of his mind. as much as possible unveiled from any prejudice, and the affections of his nature unrestrained by any antient habit from moving with natural freedom to whatever may have charms in his eye. For, the subject which we have to bring before him is one in which every faculty of his nature is in-. terested, requiring imagination to conceive its ample bounds, judgment to weigh its justice,

hope and fear to feel its consequences, and affection to embrace all the tender circumstances of its revelation-even the subject of Judgment to Come, which will decide, to every soul that readeth these pages, its destiny for ever and ever.

The question which we come next to define, after having chosen the tribunal before which it is to be agitated, is the whole matter of human responsibility and future judgment, as they are set forth in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament. Our instruction, or our brief, to speak technically, is taken from the revelation of God, to which we would not willingly add one idea of our own, as we would not withhold, for the sake of easing the burden of our theme, any one idea which it contains. The revelation, the whole revelation, and nothing but the revelation, upon the subject of our responsibility, and our condemnation or acquittal, is the thing which we undertake to argue for, and to justify before every noble attribute of human nature. We hold no question upon the authenticity of the revelation, which we take altogether for granted; we have ado with its matter only; so that our business is not with the believer or the unbeliever, but with the man. Here is a certain future transaction revealed, as consequent upon a certain constitution of things, also revealed. We inquire not how nor whence it hath come; we take it as we find it, and inquire whether it be a just thing, an honourable thing, an advantageous thing to the nature and condition of those to whom it is known. We inquire not with respect to any, save such as have had it revealed to them, because we think it is applicable to none besides. It is part of a system of revealed truth-the keystone, as it were, of the system, and cannot be applied but as a part of it. Therefore in justice it is not right, and certainly in point of fact it is not our intention, to apply it to any others than to those unto whom revelation hath come.

But whereas an act of judgment presupposeth something which is to be judged of, and implies something good or bad which is to follow thereon; it is absolutely necessary to an argument or apology for Judgment to Come, that the thing should be developed upon which judgment is to pass, and consequences to follow after judgment hath been passed. The assize is not the first act, but the second act of a drama which is not yet closed. The first act is the occurrence which is charged upon, the second act is the decision, and the third is the execution of the verdict-and there the matter endeth. But our argument we do not intend to conclude therewith; for, knowing the mighty stake which is in issue to every one who readeth this discourse, we should have but ill discharged our duty to his soul and to our God, for whose sakes we enter the lists of this controversy, were we not to add to the completed representation something which might turn to a good purpose those anxieties which it may please God to awaken; and if they be not awakened, we should discharge our duty still worse, did we not cast aside all reserves, awaken all sympathies and energies, and with heart, strength, soul and might, cast ourselves upon the barriers which are defending conscience from the invasion of truth.

Therefore, after this order will our discourse proceed :First, we shall set forth the constitution of divine government upon which this judgment is to be passed. Then we shall treat of the actual judgment; then of the issues of the judgment; and, lastly, do our endeavour to guide the people into the way of salvation from the judgment, concerning which, if they should continue reckless, we shall strike a note to thrill the drowsy chambers of the soul, and awaken it from its fatal slumbers.

Such is the order in which we propose to lay the whole subject of Judgment to Come before the whole comprehension and feeling of the soul; in doing which we shall take all liberty of discourse, abstaining from the technical forms of theology, which half the world does not understand, and the other half seems heartily disposed to forget. We shall also indulge in disquisition, to clear the subject of obscurity; and in digression, to render it entertaining; and in application, to touch, in passing, any interest or emotion which may be affected;—all however subsidiary to the great object which we have proposed, of justifying and commending this part of divine revelation to the hearts of men.

In which, if we are enabled to succeed, we shall

« ForrigeFortsæt »