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fore, no erroneous interpretation can draw aside the conclusion. If words revealed by God are true, these must be true to all eternity.
In a question of so great importance, it is our duty to endeavour to procure as correct a notion of eternity, as our limited faculties will allow. We must be assured, then, as a preliminary conception, that life, as we feel and experience its existence, does not subsist from any necessity of nature. Fatalism is a dangerous rock: but "the foundation of God standeth sure.""Eternal life is the gift of God through Jesus Christ our Lord"." Eternal life is a gift: nothing that we could claim; but it is given to those who are justified, esteemed, or accounted righteous, through the merits and mediation of our ever blessed Redeemer. Eternal punishment, the converse of the same proposition, is indeed dreadful in its consequences; but it is not contrary to the mercy of the Almighty, because the justice of God is as essential an attribute of his being, as his mercy. Our blessed Lord's ransom and intercession would have been in all cases available to salvation, if they had not been indignantly rejected. "We will not have this man to reign over us," was the signal of rebellion, and the cause of just and merited punishment. That both reward and punishment should be eternal, is consistent with the condition of man in an eternal state, when the
1 2 Tim. ii. 19.
2 Rom. vi. 23.
3 Luke xix. 14.
spiritualized body shall be capable of remuneration. God is eternal, therefore he can punish eternally; "where the worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched 1." God is eternal; therefore "he will not suffer the righteous to fall for ever." In short, "God is eternal by necessity of nature, but man's immor. tality is of free grace 3."
Oh! Eternity! the thought of thee, though it overwhelm the mind in contemplation, overwhelms it not in doubt. No; it supports me with a thousand comforts. God is for ever true; therefore his providence and his promises must be for ever certain. No time, no place, no circumstance, can alter that insight of his All-seeing Eye, which disposes and superintends the flock which he has chosen. Oh Eternity! the safeguard of happiness! thou art the sure ground of faithfulness and truth, of cheerfulness and hope, in the good man's breast! thou also, alas! art truly and deservedly the terror of the wicked! for as thou dost assure us of the excellency of reward, thy language is not less assured in the severity of punishment!
If the mutability of mortal life has ever impressed itself with strong sensations on the present frame of our existence, if days, months, and years, have told many tales of suffering and of sorrow, how is the heavy burthen lightened by resolving all into eternity! and if the conviction of sin has added to the weight, what
1 Mark ix. 44.
2 Psalm lv. 23.
3 Dr. Samuel Clarke's Sermons.
lightness of heart, what expansion of delight will be our portion when we seek the shelter of " the everlasting arms," and rest in the confidence of him, who is "able to save to the uttermost those who come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them'."
THE Soul is the origin of thought; it is the spiritual part of man, productive of all his reasonable desires, the clear judge of his whole proceedings, the implanted conscience which the Almighty Father communicated, as the rational director of his thoughts, words, and actions. The soul is distinct from the body, as is demonstrable both by reason and Scripture. The Apostle speaks of "the spirit [or breath,] the soul, and the body"," as constituting the whole of man. "This substance (which we designate the soul,) must be spiritual because it thinks, and it must be immortal, because it is spiritual." Being reasonable and free to act, it must be accountable, and therefore liable to the happiness or misery designed by God, as the reward or punishment for things done in the body.
When death comes, a separation takes place between the soul and the body. The mortal body is dissipated into its original earth, the soul is immortal.
1 Heb. vii. 25.
21 Thess. v. 23.
The re-union of these at the resurrection, is as certain as divine revelation can make it; the body will be restored in a glorified state, and the soul will again meet its companion.
But, till this takes place, will the soul sleep? or in what condition will it remain? Some have adopted the former opinion; but to me the language of Scripture, as well as the reason of the case, induces a different conclusion. It is indeed presumption to endeavour to explain what must evidently be above human comprehension. I can neither say what the soul is, nor where it exists; but that there is an active principle lodged within my frame, I feel; and every man must make the same discovery in himself, who is not deficient in the rational faculties of his nature. Let us then seek the consolation, that this principle will never forsake us. "The Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul;" not only a living man, but a living soul': an immortality of being seems implied in the expression.
There is nothing discordant in the notion, that the soul may survive in a state separate from the body; that there is an hades to which it may retire after death, where the consciousness of Christian faith and Christian obedience, and an happy anticipation of the day of Christ, will support the righteous; and where the fearful apprehension of approaching punishment
1 Gen. ii. 7.
will appal and terrify the wicked. It was certainly not within the intention of divine providence to disclose the secrets of an unseen world. Even heaven and hell are referred to in Scripture under figurative representations. Why then should we expect the passage to them to be described in different language? But as in these, we are not left in doubt of their veracity, though clothed in general expressions; so in the case of the soul's separation, there is no sufficient intimation that the gloomy repose of the soul, for perhaps some thousand years in the recesses of the grave, or in the depths of the ocean, or on the dispersion of the body under other circumstances, is so specifically given, as to lead to any such conclusion. The Church is silent on this subject, and I do not enter into the controversy concerning it; but I accept with thankfulness the additional consolation which it offers to our dying hours. True it is, the foundation of God standeth sure, and we need not this to give us the victory. "Death come, is gone, 'tis never here;" when therefore, after passing the vale of death, our happy eyes open at once on a paradise of glory, who would not congratulate, who would not bless the euthanasia, the happy transition of a departing saint!
Testimonies from Scripture. "To me to live is Christ, to die is gain. Having a desire to depart and to be with Christ which is far better." To go to