« السابقةمتابعة »
and consolation springing up within him. Infirmities which have this effect are infinitely better than strength and health themselves : though these, considered independently of their consequences, be justly esteemed the greatest of all blessings and of all gifts. The old age of a virtuous man admits of a different
a and of a most consoling description.
It is this property of old age, namely, that its proper
and most rational comfort consists in the consci. ousness of spiritual amendment. A very pious writer gives the following representation of this stage of human life, when employed and occupied as it ought to be, and when life has been drawn to its close by a course of virtue and religion. To the intelligent and virtuous, says our author, old age presents a scene of tranquil enjoyment, of obedient appetites, of well-regulated affections, of maturity in knowledge, and of calm preparation for immortality. In this serene and dignified state, placed as it were on the confines of two worlds, the mind of a good man reviews what is past with the complacency of an approving conscience, and looks forward with humble confidence in the mercy of God, and with devout aspirations towards his eternal and ever increasing favour.
THE TERRORS OF THE LORD.
MATTHEW, xvi. 26. What is a man profited if he shall gain the whole
world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man
give in exchange for his soul ? These words ask a question, the most home to every man's concern of any that can possibly enter into his thoughts. What our Saviour meant to assert, though proposed to his hearers in the form of a question (which indeed was only a stronger and more affecting way of asserting it), is, that a man's soul, by which term is here meant his state after death, is so infinitely more important to him, so beyond and above anything he can get, or anything he can lose, anything he can enjoy, or anything he can suffer, on this side the grave, that nothing, which the world offers, can make up for the loss of it, or be a compensation when that is at stake. You
that this is very evi- . dent; I reply, that, evident as it is, it is not thought of, it is not considered, it is not believed. The subject therefore is very proper to be set forth in those strong and plain terms which such a subject requires, for the purpose of obtaining for it some degree of that attention, which each man's own deep interest in the event demands of him to give it.
There are two momentous ideas which are included in the expression,—the loss of a man's soul; and these are the positive pain and sufferings which he will incur after his death ; and the happiness and reward
which he will forfeit. Upon both of these points we must go for information to the Scriptures. No where else can we receive any. Now, as to the first point, which is, in other words, the punishment of hell, I do admit that it is very difficult to handle this dreadful subject properly; and one cause, amongst others, of the difficulty is, that it is not for one poor sinner to denounce such appalling terrors, such tremendous consequences against another. Damnation is a word which lies not in the mouth of man, who is a worm, towards any of his fellow-creatures whatsoever : yet
: it is absolutely necessary that the threatenings of Almighty God be known and published. Therefore we begin by observing, that the accounts which the Scriptures contain of the punishment of hell are for the most part delivered in figurative or metaphorical terms, that is to say, in terms which represent things of which we have no notion, by a comparison with things of which we have a notion. Therefore take notice what those figures and metaphors are. They are of the most dreadful kind which words can express : and be they understood how they may, ever so figuratively, it is plain that they convey, and were intended to convey, ideas of horrible torment. They are such as these, “being cast into hell, where the worm dieth not, and where the fire is not quenched.” It is “ burning the chaff with unquenchable fire.” It is "going into fire everlasting, which is prepared for the devil and his angels." It is “being cast with
” all his members into hell, where the worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.” These are heart-appalling expressions: and were undoubtedly intended by the person who used them (who was no other than our Lord Jesus Christ himself) to describe terrible endurings : positive, actual pains of the most horrible kinds. I have said that the punishment of hell is
thus represented to us in figurative speech. I now say that, from the nature of things, it could hardly have been represented to us in any other. It is of the very nature of pain, that it cannot be known without being felt. It is impossible to give to any one an exact conception of it without his actually tasting it. Experience alone teaches its acuteness and intensity. For which reason, when it was necessary that the punishment of hell should be set forth in Scripture for our warning, and set forth to terrify us from our sins, it could only be done, as it has been done, by comparing it with sufferings of which we can form a conception, and making use of terms drawn from these sufferings. When words less figurative, and more direct, but at the same time more general, are adopted, they are not less strong, otherwise than as they are more general. “ Indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish upon every soul of man that doeth evil.” These are Saint Paul's words. It is a short sentence, but enough to make the stoutest heart tremble : for, though it unfold no particulars, it clearly designates positive torment. The day of judgment itself, so far as it respects the wicked, is expressly called “a day of wrath.” The Lord Jesus, as to them, shall be revealed in flaming fire. How terrible a fate it must be to find ourselves at that day the objects of God's wrath, the objects upon whom his threats and judgments against sin are now to be executed, the revelation of his righteous judgment and of his unerring truth to be displayed, may be conceived, in some sort, by considering what stores of inexhaustible misery are always in his power. With our present constitutions, if he do but touch the smallest part of our bodies, if a nerve in many places goes wrong, what torture we endure! Let any man, who has felt, or rather whilst he is feeling, the agony of some bodily torment, only reflect what a condition that must be which had to suffer this continually, which night and day was to undergo the same, without prospect of cessation or relief, and thus to go on : and then ask, for what he would knowingly bring himself into this situation ; what pleasure, what gain, would be an inducement? Let him reflect, also, how bitter, how grinding an aggravation of his sufferings, as well as of his guilt, it must be, that he has wilfully and forewarned brought all this upon himself. May it not be necessary that God should manifest his truth by executing his threats; may it not be necessary that he should at least testify his justice by placing a wide difference between the good and the bad ? between virtue, which he loves, and vice, which he abhors ? which difference must consist in the different state of happiness and of misery in which the good and bad are finally placed. And may we not be made deserved sacrifices to this dispensation ?
Now if any one feel his heart struck with the terrors of the Lord, with the consideration of this dreadful subject, and with the declarations of Scripture relating thereto, which will all have their accomplishment; let him be entreated, let him be admonished, to hold the idea, tremendous as it is, fully in his view, till it has wrought its effect, that is, till it has prevailed with him to part with his sins : and then we assure him that to alarm, fright, and horror, will succeed peace, and hope, and comfort, and joy in the Holy Ghost. There is another way of treating the matter, .
, and that is, to shake off the idea if we can; to drown it in intemperance; to overpower it with worldly business; to fly from it in all directions, but mostly in that which carries us to hurrying tumultuous diversions, to criminal indulgences, or into gross sensuality. Now of this course of proceeding it is certain, that, if