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But the arguments of the Gospel áré (and thanks be to God that they are) of quite à different fort. It fets before us the declarations of God himself, 6. That there shall be à “ resurrection of the dead, both of the just and " the unjust; that God hath appointed a day “ in which he will judge the world in righ“ teousness; and that we must all appear “ before the judgement-seat of Christ, that
every one may receive the things done in 5. his body, according to that he hath done, “ whether it be good or bad *.” To convince us, not only of the possibility, but of the certainty, of so wonderful an event, it appeals to facts; it shews us Christ himself, “ risen from the dead, and become the first “ fruits of them that slept.” It afterwards exhibits him to us in a still more illustrious point of view. It represents him
ing in the clouds of heaven, with power " and great glory, to judge the world. The
trumpet sounds, and the dead, both small " and
and before him " are gathered” (what an awful and astonishing spectacle !) ALL THE NATIONS OF
great, are raised
“ THE EARTII, and he separates them one “ from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats,
The books are opened, and he judgeth them out of thę things that are written in the books, according to their works ; and the wicked go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into life eternal *."
These are not profound and curious speculations, beyond the reach of common apprehensions. They are plain facts, and folemn denunciations from the very highest authority, speaking with equal force to all ranks of men, and, by their fimplicity and dignity, adapted no less to the capacity of the illiterate than to the most exalted conceptions of the learned. Hence it has come to pass, that these divine truths being preached to the poor as well as to the rich (a circumstance peculiar to the Gof pel, and therefore mentioned as one of its distinguishing characteristics t) have conveyed to the very humblest disciples of Christ far clearer ideas, and juster notions, of a future
* Matth. xxiv. 30. 1 Cor. xv. 52. Rev. xx. 12. Matth. xxx. 32, 46. + Matth. xi. 5.
state, than were to be found in all the celebrated schools of philofophy at Athens or at Rome. 3.
But there is still another point, and that of the utmost consequence, respecting a future state, in which the infinite superiority of Revelation to the light of nature must evidently appear.
And that is, the nature and duration of the rewards which it promises.
The utmost that reason can pretend to is, to prove that we shall survive the
that we shall exist in another world; and that there the wicked shall be punished according to their demerits, and the good rewarded with such a degree of happiness, as their virtues and their sufferings here seem in justice to require. This is all that is necessary to vindicate the ways of God to mankind; and therefore beyond this, our own reasoning powers, and our natural expectations, cannot go. Indeed the very best and wisest of the Pagan philosophers did not go near so far as this. Some of them, although they believed the existence of the soul after death, yet denied that it
would exist for ever *. Others admitted its eternity, but did not allow that it passed into a state of rewards and punishments. They supposed it would be resolved into the UNIVERSAL SPIRIT from which it was originally detached. And even of those who acknowledged a future retribution, many asserted that the punishments only were eternal, the rewards of a temporary nature to. And indeed it must be owned, that there are no principles of natural religion, which give us any ground to hope for a state of felicity hereafter, unmixed and perfect in its kind, beyond all conception great, and in duration endless. It is from Revelation only we learn that such shall be the rewards “ of the righ- ·
that God shall wipe away all tears “ from their eyes, and there shall be no
more death, neither sorrow, nor crying i “ that he will give them glory, and honour, " and immortality ; that they shall go away “ into life eternal, and enter into the joy of “their Lord; that in his presence there is
• Stoici- diy manfuros ajunt animos, semper negant. Tusc, Quæst. 1. i. c. 31. + Div. Leg. vol. ii. p. 199.
« fullness of joy, and pleasures for evermore so that
hath not seen, nor ear heard, nei" ther have entered into the heart of
man, “ the good things which God hath prepared 66 for them that love him *.'
In these, and many other passages of the fame nature, we are expressly assured, that both our existence and our happiness hereafter shall be, in the strictest sense of the word, everlasting. This, none but God himself could promise, or when promised, fulfil. It is more than the utmost sagacity of human reason could discover, more than the utmost perfection of human virtue could claim. ETERNAL LIFE, therefore, is constantly and justly represented in Scripture as the gift, the FREE GIFT of God, through Jesus Christ of ; and, were it on this account only, it might be truly faid, “ that life and immor" tality were brought to light through the
Mark then, I entreat you, in conclusion, mark the difference between the wisdom of
* Rev. vii. 27 ; Rom. ii, 7; Matth. xxv, 21, 36; Psalm xvi. 11; 1 Cor. ii. 9.
+ Rom. v. 18; vi. 23. 12 Tim, i. 10. 6