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SE R M O N IV.

On our Imperfect KNOWLEDGE of a

FUTURE STATE,

I Cor. xiii. 12.

For now we see through a glass, darkly.

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THE Apostle here describes the imper- SERMON

fection of our knowledge with relation to spiritual and eternal objects. He employs two metaphors to represent more strongly the disadvantages under which we lie: One, that we see those objects through a glass, that is, through the intervention of a medium which obscures their glory; the other, that we see them in a riddle or enigma, which our translators have rendered by seeing them darkly; that is, the truth in part discovered, in part concealed, and placed beyond our compre.. hension,

SERMON

IV.

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This description, however just and true, cannot fail to occasion some perplexity to an inquiring mind. For it may seem strange, that so much darkness should be left upon those celestial objects, towards which we are at the same time commanded to aspire. We are strangers in the universe of God. Confined to that spot on which we dwell, are permitted to know nothing of what is transacting in the regions above us and around us. By much labour, we acquire a superficial acquaintance with a few sensible objects which we find in our present habitation; but we enter, and we depart, under a total ignorance of the nature and laws of the spiritual world. One subject in particular, when our thoughts proceed in this train, must often recur upon the mind with peculiar anxiety; that is, the immortality of the soul, and the future state of man. Exposed as we are at present to such variety of afflictions, and subjected to so much disappointment in all our pursuits of happiness, Why, it may be said, has our gracious Creator denied us the consolation of a full discovery of our fu

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IV.

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ture existence, if indeed such an existence SÉRMON
be prepared for us?-Reason, it is true,
suggests many arguments in behalf of
immortality : Revelation gives full assu-
rance of it. Yet even that Gospel, which
is said to have brought life and immortality to
light, allows us to see only through a glass,
darkly. It doth not yet appear what we
shall be. Our knowledge of a future
world is very imperfect; our ideas of it
are faint and confused. It is not displayed
in such a manner, as to make an impres-
sion suited to the importance of the object.
The faith even of the best men is much
inferior both in clearness and in force,
to the evidence of sense; and proves on
many occasions insufficient to counterba-
lance the temptations of the present world.
Happy moments indeed there sometimes
are in the lives of pious men, when, seques-
tered from worldly cares, and borne up on
the wings of divine contemplation, they
rise to a near and transporting view of
immortal glory.

But such efforts of the
mind are rare, and cannot be long sup-
ported. When the spirit of meditation
subsides, this lively sense of a future state
VOL. I.

G

decays;

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IV.

SERMON decays; and though the general belief of it

remain, yet even good men, when they return to the ordinary business and cares of life, seem to rejoin the multitude, and to reassume the same hopes, and fears, and interests, which influence the rest of the world.

From such reflections, a considerable difficulty respecting this important subject, either arises, or seems to arise. Was such an obscure and imperfect discovery of another life worthy to proceed from God? Does it not afford some ground, either to tax his goodness, or to suspect the evidence of its coming from him ?- This is the point which we are now to consider ; and let us consider it with that close attention which the subject merits. Let us inquire, whether we have any reason, either to complain of Providence or to object to the evidence of a future state, because that evidence is not of a more sensible and striking nature. Let us attempt humbly to trace the reasons, why, though permitted to know and to see somewhat of the eternal world, we are nevertheless permitted only to know in part and to see through a glass, darkly.

IV.

It plainly appears to be the plan of the SERMON Deity, in all his dispensations, to mix light with darkness, evidence with uncertainty. Whatever the reasons of this procedure be, the fact is undeniable. He is described in the Old Testament as a God that, bideth himself *. Clouds and darkness are said to surround him. His

way

is in the sea, and his path in the great waters; his footsteps are not known. Both the works and the ways of God are full of mystery. In the ordinary course of his government, , innumerable events occur which perplex us to the utmost. There is a certain limit to all our inquiries of religion, beyond which if we attempt to proceed, we are lost in a maze of inextricable difficulties. Even that revelation which affords such material instruction to man, concerning his duty and his happiness, leaves many doubts unresolved. Why it was not given sooner ; why not to all men ; why there should be fo many things in it hard to be understood;

; are difficulties not inconsiderable, in the midst of that incontestible evidence by which it is supported. If, then, the future

* Isaiah, xlv. 15.

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state

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