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15. What an admirable idea for thus associating the ideas of time and eternity, of the visible and invisible world, is laid in the nature of religion! For what is religion ? (I mean scriptural religion, for all others is the vainest of all dreams.) What is the very root of this religion? It is Immanuel, God with us! God in man! Heaven connected with earth! The unspeakable union of mortal with immortal. For truly our fellowship (may all christians say) is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. God hath given unto us eternal life: and this life is in his Son." What follows: ? 66 He that hath the Son hath life : and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life."
16. But how shall we retain a constant sense of this? I have often thought in my waking hours, “ Now, when I fall asleep, and see such and such things, I will remember, it is but a dream.” Yet I could not, while the dream lasted; and probably none else can. But it is otherwise with the dream of life, which we do remember to be such, even while it lasts. And if we do forget it, (as we are indeed apt to do,) a friend may remind us of it. It is much to be wished, that such a friend were always near : one that would frequently sound in our ear, “ awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead !” Soon you will awake into real life. You will stand a naked spirit in the world of spirits, before the face of the great God! See that you now hold fast that “ eternal life, which he hath given you in his Son."
17. How admirably does this life of God branch out into the whole of religion! I mean scriptural religion. As soon as God reveals his Son in the heart of a sinner, he is enabled to say, “ The life that I now live, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” He then “rejoices in hope of the glory of God, even with joy unspeakable. And in consequence both of this faith and hope, the love of God is shed abroad in his heart, which filling the soul with love to all mankind,“ is the fulfilling of the law.”
17. And how wonderfully do both faith and love connect God with man, and time with eternity! In consideration of this, we may boldly say,
“ Vanish then this world of shadows;
Pass the former things away ;
With the dawn of endless day!
Throw this universe aside:
Now descend,--and take thy Bride !"
HEBREWS XI. 1.
“ Now Faith is the Evidence of Things not seen."
1. MANY times have I thought, many times have I spoken, many times have I written upon these words: and yet there appears to be a depth in them, which I am in no wise able to fathom. Faith is in one sense of the word, a divine conviction of God and of the things of God; in another, (nearly related to, yet not altogether the same,) it is a divine conviction of the invisible and eternal World. In this sense I would now consider,
2. I am now an immortal spirit, strangely connected with a little portion of earth; but this is only for a while. In a short time I am to quit this tenement of clay, and to remove into another state,
“ Which the living know not, And the dead cannot --or they may not tell !” What kind of existence shall I then enter upon, when my spirit has launched out f the body? How shall I feel myself? Perceive my own being? How shall I discern the things that are round about me, either material or spiritual objects? When my eyes no longer transmit the rays
of light, how will the naked spirit see? When the organs of hearing are mouldered into dust, in what manner
shall I hear? When the brain is of no further use, what means of thinking shall I have? When my whole body is resolved into senseless earth, what means shall I have of gaining knowledge ?
3. How strange, how incomprehensible are the means whereby I shall then take knowledge even of the materia) world? Will things appear then as they do now? Of the same size, shape, and colour? Or will they be altered in any, or all these respects? How will the Sun, Moon, and Stars appear? The sublunary Heavens ? The Planetary Heavens? The region of the fixed Stars? How the fields of Ether, which we may conceive to be millions of miles beyond them? Of all this we know nothing yet: and indeed we need to know nothing.
4. What then can we know of those innumerable objects, which properly belong to the invisible world? Which mortal eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into our hearts to conceive? What a scene will then be opened, when the regions of Hades are displayed without a covering ! Our English translators seem to have been much at a loss, for a word to render this. Indeed two hundred years ago it was tolerably expressed by the word Hell, which then signified much the same with the word Hades, namely, the invisible world. Accordingly, by Christ descending into hell, they meant that his body remained in the grave, his soul remained in Hades, which is the receptacle of separate spirits, from death to the resurrection. Here we cannot doubt but the spirits of the righteous are inexpressibly happy. They are, as St. Paul expresses it, with the Lord, favoured with so intimate a communion with him, as is far better than whatever the chief of the Apostles experienced while in this world. On the other hand, we learn from our Lord's own account of Dives and Lazarus, that the rich man, from the moment he left the world, entered into a state of torment. And there is a great gulf fixed in Hades, between the place of the holy, and that of unhol pirits, which it is impossible for either the one or the other to pass over. Indeed a gentleman of great
learning, the honourable Mr. Campbel, in his account of the Middle State, published not many years ago, seems to suppose that wicked souls may amend in Hades, and then remove to a happier mansion. He has great hopes, that the rich man mentioned by our Lord in particular, might be purified by that penal fire, till in process of time, he might be qualified for a better abode. But who can reconcile this with Abraham's assertion, that none can pass over the great gulf?
5. I cannot therefore but think that all those who are with the rich man in the unhappy division of Hades, will remain there, howling and blaspheming, cursing and looking upwards, till they are cast into “ the everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.” And on the other hand, can we reasonably doubt, but that those who are now in Paradise, in Abraham's bosom, all those holy souls, who have been discharged from the body, from the beginning of the world unto this day, will be continually ripening for heaven, will be perpetually holier and happier, till they are received into the “ Kingdom prepared for them from the foundation of the world.”
6. But who can inform us, in what part of the universe Hades is situated ? This abode of both happy and unhappy spirits, till they are re-united to their bodies? It has not pleased God to reveal any thing concerning it, in the Holy Scripture: and, consequently, it is not possible for us, to form any judgment, or even conjecture about it. Neither are we informed how either one or the other are employed, during the time of their abode there. Yet may we not probably suppose, that the Governor of the world may sometimes permit wicked souls “ to do his gloomy errands in the deep?" Or, perhaps, in conjunction with evil angels, to inflict vengeance on wicked men? Or will many of them be shut up in chains of darkness, unto the judgment of the great day? In the mean time, may we not probably suppose, that the spirits of the just, though generally lodged in Paradise, yet may sometimes, in conjunction with