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for those exertions which are allotted to SERMON him in his present sphere of being, But, all his faculties being sublimated above the measure of humanity, he would be in the condition of a being of superiour order, who, obliged to reside among men, would regard their pursuits with scorn, as dreams, trifles, and puerile amusements of a day.
But' to this reasoning it may perhaps be replied, That such consequences as I have now stated, supposing them to follow, deserve not much regard.-For what though the present arrangement of human affairs were entirely changed, by a clearer view, and a stronger impression of our future state ? Would not such a change prove the highest blessing to man? Is not his attachment to worldly objects the great source both of his misery and his guilt ? Employed in perpetual contemplation of heavenly objects, and in preparation for the enjoyment of them, would he not become more virtuous, and of course more happy, than the nature of his present employments and attachments permits him to be?-Allowing for a moment, the consequence to be such, this 'much is yielded,
SERMON that, upon the supposition which was made,
man would not be the creature which he now is, nor human life the state which we now behold.
How far the change would contribute to his welfare, comes to be considered..
If there be any principle fully ascertained by religion, it is, That this life was intended for a state of trial and improvement to man. His preparation for a better world required a gradual purification carried on by steps of progressive discipline. The situation, therefore, here assigned him, was such as to answer this design, by calling forth all his active powers, by giving full scope to his moral dispositions, and bringing to light his whole character. Hence it became proper, that difficulty and temptation should arise in the course of his duty. Ample rewards were promised to virtue, but these rewards were left, as yet, in obscurity and distant prospect. The impressions of sense were so balanced against the discoveries of immortality, as to allow a conflict between faith and sense, between conscience and desire, between present plea
sure and future good. In this conflict, the SERMON souls of good men are tried, improved, and by strengthened. In this field, their honours are reaped. Here are formed the capital virtues of fortitude, temperance and selfdenial; moderation in prosperity, patience in adversity, submission to the will of God, and charity and forgiveness to men, amidst the various competitions of worldly interest.
Such is the plan of Divine wisdom for man's improvement. But put the case that the plans devised by human wisdom were to take place, and that the rewards of the just were to be more fully displayed to view; the exercise of all those graces which I have mentioned, would be entirely superseded. Their very names would be unknown. Every temptation being withdrawn, every worldly attachment being subdued by the overpowering discoveries of eternity, no trial of sincerity, no discrimination of characters, would remain ; no opportunity would be afforded for those active exertions, which are the means of purifying and perfecting the good, On the competition between time
SERMON and eternity, depends the chief exercise
of human virtue. The obscurity which at present hangs over eternal objects, preserves the competition. Remove that obscurity, and you remove human virtuę from its place. You overthrow that whole system of discipline, by which imperfect creatures are, in this life, gradually trained
for a more perfect state,
This, then, is the conclusion to which at last we arrive: That the full display which was demanded, of the heavenly glory, would be so far from improving the human soul, that it would abolish those virtues and duties which are the great instruments of its improvement. It would be unsuitable to the character of man in every view, either as
an active being, or a moral agent. It would disqualify him for taking part in the affairs of the world; for relishing the pleasures, or for discharging the duties of life: In a word, it would entirely defeat the purpose of his being placed on this earth. And the question, Why the Almighty has been pleased to leave a spiritual world, and the future existence of man, under so
much obscurity, resolves in the end into SERMON this, Why there should be such a creature as man in the universe of God ?-Such is the issue of the improvements proposed to be made on the plans of Providence. They add to the discoveries of the superiour wisdom of God, and of the presumption and folly
FROM what has been said it now appears, That no reasonable objection to the belief of a future state arises, from the imperfect discoveries of it which we enjoy; from the difficulties that are mingled with its evidence; from
from our seeing as through a glass, darkly, and being left to walk by faith, and not by sight. It cannot be otherwise, it ought not to be otherwise, in our present state. The evidence which is afforded, is sufficient for the conviction of a candid mind, sufficient for a rational ground of conduct; though not so striking as to withdraw our attention from the present world, or altogether to overcome the impression of sensible objects. In such evidence, it becomes us to acquiesce, without indulging either