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VALUE OF THE DOCTRINE OF
A BELIEVER may be excused by the most hardened atheist for endeavouring to make him a convert, because he does it with an eye to both their interests. The atheist is inexcusable who tries to gain over a believer, because he does not propose the doing himself or the believer any good by such a conversion.
The prospect of a future state is the secret comfort and refreshment of my soul; it is that which makes nature look gay about me; it doubles all my pleasures, and supports me under all my afflictions. I can look at disappointments and misfortunes, pain and sickness, and death itself, and, what is worse than death, the loss of those who are dearest to me, with indifference, so long as I keep in view the pleasures of eternity, and the state of being in which there will be no fears or apprehensions, pains or sorrows, sickness or separation. Why will any man be so impertinent as to tell me all this is only fancy and delusion? Is there any merit in being the messenger of ill news? If it is a dream, let me enjoy it, since it makes me both the happier and the better man.
I must confess I do not know how to trust a
man who believes neither heaven nor hell, or in other words, a future state of rewards and punishments. Not only natural selflove, but reason, directs us to promote our own interest above all things. It can never be for the interest of a believer to do me mischief, because he is sure, upon the balance of accounts, to find himself a loser by it. On the contrary, if he consider his own welfare in his behaviour towards me, it will lead him to do me all the good he can, and at the same time, restrain him from doing me an injury. An unbeliever does not act like a reasonable creature, if he favors me contrary to his present interest, or does not distress me when it turns to his present advantage. Honor and good nature may indeed tie up his hands; but as these would be very much strengthened by reason and principle, so without them they are only instincts, or wavering, unsettled notions, which rest on no foundations.
As folly and inconsiderateness are the foundations of infidelity, the great pillars and supports of it are either a vanity of appearing wiser than the rest of mankind, or an ostentation of courage in despising the terrors of another world, which have so great an influence on what they call weaker minds, or an aversion to a belief that must cut them off from many of those pleasures they pro
pose to themselves, and fill them with remorse for many of those they have already tasted.
THE LAST JUDGMENT.
We have now before us a subject, which, for the magnificence of the scenery, the magnitude of the transaction, and the effects which it draweth on, stands unrivalled in the annals of human knowledge; a subject, indeed, with which the powers of conception cannot be brought to contend. Imagination cowers her wing, unable to fetch the compass of the ideal scene. The great white throne descending out of heaven, guarded and begirt with the principalities and powers thereof; the awful presence, at whose sight the heavens and the earth flee away, and no place for them is found; the shaking of the mother elements of nature, and the commotion of the hoary deep, to render up their long dissolved dead; the rushing together of quickened men upon all the winds of heaven, down to the centre where the Judge sitteth on his blazing throne; to give form and figure and utterance to the mere circumstantial pomp of such a scene, no imagination availeth. The archangel, with the trump of God,
riding sublime in the midst of heaven, and sending through the widest dominion of death and the grave, that sharp summons that divideth the solid earth, and rings through the caverns of the hollow deep, piercing the dull cold ear of death with the knell of their departed reign; the death of death, the disinheriting of the grave, the reign of life, the second birth of living things, the reunion of body and soul, the one from unconscious sleep, the other from apprehension and unquiet abodes; the congregation of all generations over whom the stream of time hath swept; this outstretches my understanding, no less than the material imagery confuses my imagination. And when I
bring the picture to my heart, its feelings are overwhelmed. When I fancy this quick and conscious frame, one instant reawakened and reinvested, the next summoned before the face of the Almighty Judge; now rebegotten, now sifted through every secret corner; my poor soul, possessed with the memory of its misdeeds, submitted to the searching eye of my Maker, my fate depending upon his lips, my everlasting, changeless fate; I shriek and shiver with mortal apprehension. And when I fancy the myriads of men all standing thus explored and known, I seem to hear their shivering, like the aspen leaves in the still evening of autumn. Pale fear possesseth every countenance, and blank conviction every
quaking heart. They stand like men upon the perilous edge of battle, withholden from speech, and pinched for breath, through excess of struggling emotions; shame, remorse, and mortal apprehension, and trembling hope.
Then the recording angel opens the book of God's remembrance, and inquisition proceedeth apace. Anon they move quicker than the movement of thought, to the right and left, two most innumerous companies. From his awful seat, his countenance clothed with the smile which makes all heaven gay, the Judge pronounceth blessings forever and ever upon the heads of his disciples, and dispenseth to them a kingdom prepared by God from the first of time. To their minds, seized with the tidings of unexpected deliverance, it seemeth as a dream, and they wonder with ecstasy at the unbounded love of their Redeemer. They wonder, and they speak their unworthiness; but they are reassured by the voice of Him that changeth not. Then joy seizeth their whole soul, and assurance of immortal bliss. Their trials are ended, their course is finished, the prize is won, and the crown of eternal life is laid up for them in store; fulness of joy and pleasures forever, at the right hand of God.