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be fure at length to feel him in his difpleasure. And how dreadful is the condition of that creature, who is fenfible of the being of his Creator, only by what he fuffers from him! He is as effentially present in hell as in heaven; but the inhabitants of those dismal regions behold him only in his wrath, and fhrink within the flames to conceal themfelves from him. It is not in the power of imagination to conceive the fearful effects of Omnipotence incenfed.
But I fhall only confider the wretchedness of an intellectual being, that, in this life, lies under the displeasure of him, who, at all times, and in all places, is intimately united with him. He is able to difquiet the foul, and vex it in all its faculties. He can hinder any of the greateft comforts of life from refreshing us, and give an edge to every one of its flightest calamities. Who then can bear the thought of being an outcast from his prefence, that is, from the comforts of it, or of feeling it only in its terrors? How pathetic is that expoftulation of Job, when for the real trial of his patience, he was made to look upon himself in this deplorable condition! "why haff thou fet me as a mark against thee, so that I am become a burden to myself?"
But, thirdly, how happy is the condition of that intellectual being, who is fenfible of his Maker's prefence, from the fecret effects of his mercy and loving-kindness! The bleffed in heaven behold him face to face, that is, are as fenfible of his prefence as we are of the prefence of any perfon whom we look upon with our eyes. There is doubtless a faculty in spirits, by which they apprehend one another, as our fenfes do material objects; and there is no question but our fouls, when they are difembodied, or placed in glorified bodies, will, by this faculty, in whatever part of space they refide, be always fenfible of the divine prefence. We, who have this veil of flesh standing between us and the world of fpirits, must be content to know the Spirit of God is prefent with us by the effects which he produces in us. Our outward fenfes are too grofs to apprehend him. We may however talte and fee how gracious he is, by his influence upon our minds: by thofe virtuous thoughts which he awakens in us; by thofe fecret comforts and refrethments which he conveys into our fouls; and by those ravishing joys and inward fatisfactions which are frequently fpringing up, and diffuting themselves among the thoughts of good men. He is lodged in our very eilence, and is as a fou!
within the foul, to irradiate its understanding, rectify its will, purify its paffions, and enliven all the powers of man. How happy therefore is an intellectual being, who, by prayer and meditation, by virtue and good works, opens this communication between God and his own foul ! Though the whole creation frowns, and all nature looks black about him, he has his light and fupport within, that are able to cheer his mind, and bear him up in the midst of all those horrors which encompass him. He knows that his helper is at hand, and is always nearer to him than any thing can be, which is capable of annoying or terrifying him. In the midst of calumny or contempt, he attends to that Being who whispers better things within his foul, and whom he looks upon as his defender, his glory, and the lifter-up of his head. In his deepest folitude and retirement, he knows that he is in company with the greatest of beings; and perceives within himself fuch real fenfations of his prefence, as are more delightful than any thing that can be met with in the converfation of his creatures. Even in the hour of death, he confiders the pains of his diffolution to be only the breaking down of that partition, which ftands betwixt his foul, and the fight of that Being who is always prefent with him, and is about to manifeft itself to him in fulness of joy.
If we would be thus happy, and thus fenfible of our Maker's prefence, from the fecret effects of his mercy and goodness, we must keep fuch a watch over all our thoughts, that, in the language of the fcripture, his foul may have pleasure in us. We must take care not to grieve his holy Spirit, and endeavour to make the meditations of our hearts always acceptable in his fight, that he may delight thus to refide and dwell in us. The light of nature could direct Seneca to this doctrine, in a very remarkable paffage in one of his epiftles: "There is (fays he) a holy spirit refiding in us, who watches and obferves both good and evil men, and will treat us after the fame manner that we treat him." But I fhall conclude this difcourfe with those more emphatical words in divine revelation: "If a man love me, he will keep my words; and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him."
Our imperfect knowledge of a future ftate, fuited to the condition of man.
THE fceptic, who is diffatisfied with the obfcurity which Divine Providence has wifely thrown over the future ftate, conceives that more information would be reasonable and falutary. He defires to have his view enlarged beyond the limits of this corporeal scene. Instead of refting upon evidence which requires difcuffion, which muft he fupported by much reafoning, and which, after all he alleges, yields very imperfect information, he demands the everlasting manfions to be fo difplayed, as to place faith on a level with the evidence of fenfe. What noble and happy effects, he exclaims, would instantly follow, if man thus beheld his prefent and his future existence at once before him! He would then become worthy of his rank in the creation. Inftead of being the fport, as now, of degrading paffions and childish attachments, he would act folely on the principles of immortality. His purfuit of virtue would be steady : his life would be undisturbed and happy. Superior to the attacks of distress, and to the folicitations of pleasure, he would advance, by a regular progress, towards those divine rewards and honours which were continually prefent to his view. Thus fancy, with as much ease and confidence as if it were a perfect judge of création, erects a new world to itself, and exults with admiration of its own work. But let us pause, and fufpend this admiration, till we coolly examine the confequences that would follow from this fuppofed reformation of the universe.
Confider the nature and circumstances of man. Introduced into the world in an indigent condition, he is fupported at firft by the care of others; and, as foon as he begins to act for himself, finds labour and industry to be neceffary for fuftaining his life, and fupplying his wants. Mutual defence and interest give rife to fociety; and fociety, when formed, requires distinctions of property, diversity of conditions, fubordination of ranks, and a multiplicity of occupations, in order to advance the general good. The
fervices of the poor, and the protection of the rich, become reciprocally neceffary. The governors, and the governed, mult co-operate for general fafety. Various arts must be ftudied; fome refpecting the cultivation of the mind, others the care of the body; fome to ward off the evils, and forne to provide the conveniences of life. In a word, by the destination of his Creator, and the neceffities of his nature, man commences, at once, an active, not merely a contemplative being. Religion affumes him as fuch. It fuppofes him employed in this world, as on a bufy ftage. It regulates, but does not abolish, the enterprises and cares of ordinary life. It addreffes itself to the various ranks in fociety; to the rich and the poor, to the magistrate and the subject. It rebukes the flothful; directs the diligent how to labour; and requires every man to do his own bufinefs.
Suppofe, now, that veil to be withdrawn which conceals another world from our view. Let all obscurity vanish; let us no longer "fee darkly, as through a glafs;" but let every man enjoy that intuitive perception of divine and eternal objects, which the fceptic was fuppofed to defire. The immediate effect of fuch a difcovery would be, to annihilate in our eye all human objects, and to produce a total ftagnation in the affairs of the world. Were the celeftial glory expofed to our admiring view; did the angelic harmony found in our enraptured ears; what earth. ly concerns could have the power of engaging our attention for a single moment? All the ftudies and purfuits, the arts and labours, which now employ the activity of man which fupport the order, or promote the happiness of fociety, would lie neglected and abandoned. Thofe defires and fears, those hopes and interefts by which we are at present ftimulated, would ceafe to operate. Human life would prefent no objects fufficient to roufe the mind; to kindle the spirit of enterprife, or to urge the hand of induftry. If the mere fenfe of duty engaged a good man to take fome part in the bufinefs of the world, the task, when fubmitted to, would prove diftafteful. Even the prefervation of life would be flighted, if he were not bound to it by the authority of God. Impatient of his confinement within this tabernacle of duft, languishing for the happy day of his tranflation to thofe glorious regions which were difplayed to his fight, he would fojourn 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 infipid. In a word, he would be no longer a fit. inhabitant of this world, nor be qualified for those exertions which are allotted to him in his prefent fphere of being. But, all his faculties being fublimated above the measure of humanity, he would be in the condition of a being of fuperior order, who, obliged to refide among men, would regard their purfuits with fcorn, as dreams, trifles, and puerile amufements of a day.
But to this reafoning it may, perhaps, be replied, that fuch confequences as I have now ftated, fuppofing them to follow, deferve not much regard. For what though the prefent arrangement of human affairs were entirely changed, by a clearer view, and a ftronger impreffion of our future ftate; would not such a change prove the highest bleffing to man? Is not his attachment to worldly objects the great fource both of his mifery 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 prefent employments and attachments permits him to be?-Allowing for a moment, the consequence to be fuch, this much is yielded, that, upon the fuppofition which was made, man would not be the creature which he now is, nor human life the ftate which we now behold. How far the change would contribute to his welfare, comes to be confidered.
If there be any principle fully afcertained 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 fteps of progreffive difcipline. The fituation, therefore, here affigned him, was fuch as to answer this defign, by calling forth all his active powers, by giving full fcope to his moral difpofitions, and bringing to light his whole character. Hence it became proper, that difficulty and temptation fhould arife in the courfe of his duty. Ample rewards were promised to virtue; but these rewards were left, as yet, in obfcurity and diftant profpect. The impreffions of fense were fo balanced against the discoveries of immortality, as to allow a conflict between faith and fenfe, between confcience and defire, between present pleasure and future good. In this conflict, the fouls of good men are tried, improved, and ftrengthened. In this field, their