Page images


SERMON derated. Precisely in the same manner, as by the mixture of evidence and obscurity which remains on the prospect of a future state, a proper balance is preserved betwixt our love of this life, and our desire of a better.

The longer that our thoughts dwell on this subject, the more we must be convinced, that in nothing the Divine wisdom is more admirable, than in proportioning knowledge to the necessities of man. Instead of lamenting our condition, that we are permitted only to see as through a glass, darkly, we have reason to bless our Creator, no less for what he hath concealed, than for what he hath allowed us to know. He is wonderful in counsel, as he is excellent in working. He is wise in heart, and his thoughts are deep. How unsearchable are the riches of the wisdom of the knowledge of God!

FROM the whole view which we have taken of the subject, this important instruction arises, that the great design of all the knowledge, and in particular of the religious knowledge which God hath afforded


forded us, is, to fit us for discharging the SERMON duties of life. No useless discoveries are made to us in religion: No discoveries - even of useful truths, beyond the precise degree of information, which is subservient to right conduct. To this great end all our information points. In this centre all the lines of knowledge meet. Life and immortality are brought to light in the gospel; yet not so displayed as to gratify the curiosity of the world with an astonishing spectacle; but only so far made known, as to assist and support us in the practice of our duty. If the discovery were more imperfect, it would excite no desire of immortality; if it were more full and striking, it would render us careless of life. On the first supposition, no sufficient motive to virtue would appear; on the second, no proper trial of it would remain. In the one case, we should think and act like men who have their portion only in this world; in the other case, like men who have no concern with this world at all. Whereas now, by the wise constitution of Heaven, we are placed in the most favourable situation for acting, with propriety, our allotted part here; and for H 4 rising,

SERMON rising, in due course, to higher honour and happiness hereafter.


Let us then second the kind intentions of Providence, and act upon the plan which it hath pointed out. Checking our inquisitive solicitude about what the Almighty hath concealed, let us diligently improve what he hath made known. Inhabitants of the earth, we are at the same time candidates for Heaven. Looking upon these as only different views of one consistent character, let us carry on our preparation for Heaven, not by abstracting ourselves from the concerns of this world, but by fulfilling the duties and offices of every station in life. Living soberly, righteously, and godly in the present world, let us look for that blessed hope, and the glorious appear-, ing of the great God, and our Saviour Jesus Christ,

Before I conclude, it may be proper to observe, That the reasonings in this discourse give no ground to apprehend any danger of our being too much influenced by the belief of a future state. I have shown the hurtful effects which would follow from too bright and full a discovery of the



the glory of that state; and in showing this, SERMON I have justified the decree of Providence, which permits no such discovery. But as our nature is at present constituted, attached by so many strong connexions to the world of sense, and enjoying a communication so feeble and distant with the world of spirits, we need fear no danger from cultivating intercourse with the latter as much as possible. On the contrary, from that intercourse the chief security of our virtue is to be sought. The bias of our nature leans so much towards sense, that from this side the peril is to be dreaded, and on this side the defence is to be provided.

Let us then walk by faith. Let us strengthen this principle of action to the utmost of our power. Let us implore the •Divine grace, to strengthen it within us more and more: That we may thence derive an antidote against that subtle poison, .which incessant commerce with the objects of sense diffuses through our souls; that we may hence acquire purity and dignity of manners suited to our divine hopes; and undefiled by the pleasures of the world, unshaken


SERMON shaken by its terrours, may preserve to the end one constant tenour of integrity. Till at last, having, under the conduct of Christian faith, happily finished the period of discipline, we enter on that state, where a far nobler scene shall open; where eternal objects shall shine in their native splendour; where, this twilight of mortal life being past, the Sun of righteousness shall rise; and, that which is perfect being come, that which is in part shall be done away.

« PreviousContinue »