صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

no hesitation in saying, these all go to a place of happiness.*

2. It is probable there has been, in past ages, more religion than has been noticed by historians. Poverty, when not extreme, is favourable to piety. The higher orders of society possess the means of gratifying their corrupt propensities, and by repeated gratifications they are formed into habits, which, in many cases, become unconquerable ; whereas the poor, through the indigence of their circumstances, are induced to subdue those inclinations which they cannot indulge, and to console themselves with the pleasures which religion affords. But private, silent virtue, such as that which dwells in the humble cottage, generally escapes the attention of the historian. He fills his pages with only accounts of espots, tyrants, prelates, dissensions in church and state, &c. To judge, therefore, of the state of religion, in any country, or in any age, by what historians in general have recorded, is like forming a judgment of the state of health in a kingdom by visiting a hospital.

3. Far more people, even in the present age, are living under the influence of religion, than is generally believed. Many are hid from public observation by their modesty and poverty.

Virtue in many persons makes but little noise. The good prophet thought he had stood alone, when there were seven thonsand in Israel who had not bowed the knee to Baal.

It is very usual too, to attach a greater degree of importance to the opinions which are peculiar to certain sects, than in justice they deserve ; hence, when we have seen, in other sects and parties of professing Christ

*"We do not know that the greater part of mankind are eternally “miserable : perhaps all infants may be saved, and such universal virtue "may hereafter prevail, for succeeding, and those very long-lived and s fruitful generations, as shall turn the balance of number, even among “ the adult, on the side of religion and happiness." Doddridge's Lec tures, Vol. 2. p. 473.

ians, a conduct corresponding with the precepts of the Gospel, instead of exercising that charity which believeth and hopeth all things, we are employed in endeavouring to reconcile their conduct with hypocrisy ; which has led to the conclusion, that some persons, without grace, will go farther in the practice of morality than others go with it. This sentiment tends to subvert the whole Gospel system ; for if false principles will carry a man as far as true ones, and in some cases farther, it may very reasonably be demanded, wherefore then serveth the Gospel? If men would only put that favourable construction upon propriety of character which candour demands, many thousands would be considered as belonging to the household of faith and the family of heaven, who are now looked upon as aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise.

4, If, in addition to a third part of the human race, who die in their childhood, the


into happiness unnoticed from obscure situations in life, and the multitudes of pious people whom bigotry anathematizes as damnable heretics, we add all those who are pretty generally acknowledged to be the people of God, with all idiots, and the chief part of those who die between the age of seven and twelve, (and who can doubt but most of these are received to happiness after death ?) it will require no very great stretch of faith and charity to conclude, that hitherto a majority of the human race have attained to felicity in the eternal world. And if we look forward the prospect will brighten; for,

5. There is an age approaching, during which rightcousness will be universal. The earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea, Isa. xi. 9. The apostle John informs us, that the duration of that age will be a thousand years.

The numbers which designate the duration of the reign of Antichrist are almost universally allowed to be prophetic numbers, and that a day must be interpreted to mean a year. And why should the term of the Messiah's reign be explained in a more rigid sense ? Understand them both by the same rule of interpretation, and the duration of the age of righteousness will be 360,000 years. To strengthen this opinion, observe, (1.) That during that age the life of man will be protracted to near, if not quite a thousand years. See Isa. Ixv. 20, 21, 22. A person will be a child, i. e. in the first stage of life at the age of one hundred years. It is therefore no improbable conjecture, that according to the regular course of nature, men will then live about a thousand years. It is also observed, As the days of a tree, are the days of my people. Now it is supposed by some historians and travellers that some of the Cedars of Lebanon have stood for near a thousand years. (2.) Several generations will pass away during that age. See Psa. lxxii. 5. Ezek. xxxvii. 25. The phrase, all generations, must certainly include in it many generations. No man, who will be at the trouble to examine the contexts can doubt but the above texts refer to a future age. And if there will be many generations of men in that age, each of which will live a thousand years, or nearly, then the thousand years of the apostle John cannot be interpreted literally, they must intend many thousand

years ;

and I see no reason why we should stop short of 360,000.

But what a scene here opens to our view! Consider the myriads that will be translated to heaven during this happy period, and it will not excite surprise, if the number of the lost of mankind will bear no greater proportion to the number of the saved, than the executions at Newgate do to the inhabitants of the metropolis.

Here then I think the objection is fairly met, and fully answered. Had not God created those whom he foresaw would perish, the influence of their example would have been wanting. But God urges these examples as warnings to us : such warnings therefore are necessary

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

guardians of virtue, for God does nothing in vain : so that without them vice, and misery would have reigned universally; and therefore, according to the objection, not one of the human race ought to have existed. But it is better, upon the whole, that the human race do exist, since a large majority of them will be finally happy; and thus the goodness of God, in creating those who perish, is reconciled with his foreknowledge of their perdition.

But if it were admitted, for argument's sake, that the number of the lost of mankind will exeed the number of the saved, yet the objection may be answered another way. It is highly probable, that there is a plurality of inhabited worlds ;—that the inhabitants of other worlds stand in a higher rank in the scale of being than the inhabitants of this world ;-that the number of the finally lost will bear no proportion to the number of the saved ; —and that the inhabitants of all the worlds in the universe stand in some relation to one another : hence the exemplary punishment of men may be useful to keep other orders of intelligent beings in a state of subjection and obedience, and thus perfectly accord with the goodness of God.

1. There is a plurality of inhabited worlds. It is certain that the other planets of this system are worlds, in many respects similar to ours. Like this, each performs its diurnal revolution round its own axis, and its annual revolution round the sun ; so that they have their regular return of day and night, summer and winter. They also, in common with us, derive from the sup both light and heat, which may serve them, as well as us, for the purposes of life and vegetation. Thus we see, that in some of the most important particulars, the other planets of this system are as well provided as ours is, for the support of living creatures.* And when we consider how

* In Isa. xlv. 18. we read, that “God formed the earth.-He created it "not in vain. He formed it to be inhabited." This passage proves, that


this world is crowded with inhabitants, we shall find it difficult to suppose that they remain a perpetual waste and desolation.*

As the fixed stars shine with inherent light, they are suns, and, most probably, have planets rolling round them, their distances from each other being sufficiently great to admit of this. And we cannot see for what other purpose they were created. It may indeed be said, that the light of the stars is very useful to us ; but it may

be answered, that one more moon, at a convenient distance, would have been much more so. Neither will it explain the matter to say, that they are spread abroad through the heavens for ornament, because many of them are not visible to the naked eye : and I believe no man can think God placed them at such an amazing distance, for the entertainment of a few gazing philosophers with their glasses. But when, on the other hand, we take in the idea that the planets of this system and of the other thousands of systems are all inhabited by intelligent creatures, we are lost in astonishment, while contemplating the wonderful works and ways of the Creator and Preserver of the universe.t

a world without inhabitants is created in vain: but God made nothing in vain : it follows, therefore, that every world is inhabited.

*" I know it is a thing uncertain and unrevealed to us, whether all these "globes be inhabited or not: but he that considereth that there is scarce

any uninhabitable place on earth, or in the water, or air, but men, or " beasts, or birds, or fishes, or fies, or worms occupy almost all parts of it, " will think it a probability so near a certainty, as not to be much doubted " of.” Baxter on the Christian Rel. p. 389.

† " The moon in many respects resembles our earth. In her, as well as on our globe, we discover continents, and seas, mountains, valleys, islands, " and gulfs. Such striking similitudes authorize us to admit others, and " to conclude, that in the moon there are minerals and vegetables, animals " and rational creatures. The analogy between the moon and the other “ planets, leads us to extend the same conjectures to them: and as each “ fixed star has, according to all appearance, like our sun, its particular “planets, so these planets undoubtedly resemble ours. Thus we see


« السابقةمتابعة »