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SERMON state of man be not placed in so full and
clear a light as we desire, this is no more than what the analogy of all religion, both natural and revealed, gave us reason to expect.
But such a solution of the difficulty will be thought imperfect. It may, perhaps, not give much satisfaction to show, that all religion abounds with difficulties of a like nature. Our situation, it will be said, is so much the more to be lamented, that not on one side only we are confined in our inquiries, but on all hands environed with mysterious obscurity. Let us then, if so much dissatisfied with our condition, give scope for once to Fancy, and consider how the plan of Providence might be rectified to our wish. Let us call upon the Sceptic, and desire him to say,
what measure of information would afford him entire satisfaction.
This, he will tell us, requires not any long or deep deliberation. He desires only to have his view enlarged beyond the limits of this corporeal state. Instead of resting upon evidence which requires discussion, which must be supported by much reasonS 3-1
ing, and which, after all, he alleges, yields SERMON very imperfect information, he demands the everlasting mansions to be so displayed, if in truth such mansions there be, as to place faith on a level with the evidence of
What noble and happy effects, he exclaims, would instantly follow, if man thus beheld his present and his future existence at once before him! He would then become worthy of his rank in the creation. Instead of being the sport, as now, of degrading passions and childish attachments, he would act solely on the principles of immortality. His pursuit of virtue would be steady; his life would be undisturbed and happy. Superiour to the attacks of distress, and to the solicitations of pleasure, he would advance, by a regu. lar process, towards those divine rewards and honours which were continually present to his view.---Thus Fancy, with as much ease and confidence as if it were a operfect judge of creation, erects a new world to itself, and exults with admiration of its own work.
But let us pause, and suspend this admiration, till we coolly examine the consequences that would fol
SERMON low from this supposed reformation of the
CONSIDER the nature and circumstances of man. Introduced into the world in an indigent condition, he is supported at first by the care of others; and, as soon as he begins to act for himself finds labour and industry to be necessary for sustaining his life, and supplying his wants. Mutual defence and interest give rise to society; and society, when formed, requires distinctions of property, diversity of conditions, subordinations of ranks, and a multiplicity of occupations, in order to advance the general good. The services of the poor, and the protection of the rich, become reciprocally necessary. The
governours, and the governed, must co-operate for general safety. Various arts must be studied; some 'respecting the cultivation of the mind, others the care of the body; some to ward off the evils, and some“to provide the conveniences of life. word, by the destination of his Creator, and the necessities of his nature, man commences, at once, an active, not merely a
In a arts
contemplative being. Religion assumes SERMON him as such. It supposes him employed in this world, as on a busy stage. It regulates, but does not abolish, the enterprises and cares of ordinary life. It addresses itself to the various ranks in society; to the rich and the poor, to the magistrate and the subject. It rebukes the slothful; directs the diligent how to labour ; and requires every man to do his own business.
Suppose, now, that veil to be withdrawn which conceals another world from our view. Let all obscurity vanish; let us no longer see darkly, as through a glass ; but let every man enjoy that intuitive perception of divine and eternal objects which the Sceptic was supposed to desire. The immediate effect of such a discovery would be, to annihilate in our 'eye all human objects, and to produce a total stagnation in the affairs of the world. Were the celestial glory exposed to our admiring view ; did the angelic harmony sound in our enraptured ears ; what earthly concerns would have the power of engaging our attention for a single moment? All the studies and pursuits, the
SERMON arts and labours, which now employ the
activity of man, which support the order, or promote the happiness of society, would lie neglected and abandoned, Those desires and fears, those hopes and interests, by which we are at present stimulated, would cease to operate, Human life would present no objects sufficient to rouse the mind; to kindle the spirit of enterprise, or to urge the hand of industry, If the merę sense of duty engaged a good man to take some part in the business of the world, the task, when submitted to, would prove distasteful. Even the preservation of life would be slighted, if he were not bound to it by the authority of God, Impatient of his confinement within this tabernacle of dust, languishing for the happy day of his translation to those glorious regions which were displayed to his sight, he would sojourn on earth as a melancholy exile. Whatever Providence has prepared for the entertainment of man, would be viewed with contempt, Whatever is now attractive in society would appear insipid, In a word, he would be no longer a fit inhabitant of this world, nor be qualified