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Proposition 1. There is a future eternal state, into which
at death. This truth is a principal foundation-stone to the hopes and happiness of souls; and is briefly established by the following arguments:
1. The being of a God undeniably evinces a future state for human souls after this life. For, if there be a God who rules the world which he hath made, he must rule it by rewards and punishments, equally and righteously distributed to good and bad; putting a difference between the obedient and disobedient, the righteous and the wicked. To make a species of creatures capable of moral government, and not to rule them at all, is to make them in vain, and is inconsistent with his glory, which is the end of all things. To rule them, but not suitably to their natures, consists not with that infinite wisdom from which their beings proceeded. To rule them in a way suitable to their natures, namely, by rewards and punishments, and not to bestow or inflict them at all, is utterly incongruous with the veracity and truth of Him that cannot lie. So then, as he hath made rational creatures capable of moral government by rewards and punishments, he rules them in the way suitable to their natures, promising "it shall be well with the righteous, and ill with the wicked." These promises and threatenings can be no cheat, merely intended to terrify where there is no danger, or encourage where there is no real benefit; but what he promises, or threatens, must be accomplished, and every word of God must be fulfilled. But it is evident that no such distinction is made by the providence of God (at least ordinarily and generally) in this life ; but all things come alike to all; and as with the righteous, so with the wicked. Yea, here it goes ill with them that fear God; they are oppressed; they receive their evil things, and wicked men their good : therefore we conclude, the righteous Judge of the whole earth will, in another world, recompense to every one according as his york shall be.
2. As the very being of God evinces it, so the Scriptures plainly reveal it. These Scriptures are the system of laws for the government of man, which the wise and holy Ruler of the world hath enacted and ordained. And in them we find promises made to the righteous, of a full reward in the world to come, for all their obedience, patience, and sufferings; and threatenings made against the wicked, of eternal wrath and anguish, as the just recompense of their sin in hell for ever : Treasuring up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath, and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; who will render to every man according to his deeds: to them who, by patient continuance in well-doing, seek for glory, and honor, and immortality; eternal life: but unto them that are contentious, and obey not the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish upon every soul of man that doeth evil.” Rom. 2:5-10. So 2 Thess. 1:4–7, "We ourselves glory in you in the churches of God, for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure: which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer : seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; and to you, who are troubled, rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven in flaming fire.” To these plain testimonies multitudes might be added, if it were need. ful. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but these words shall never pass away.
3. As the Scriptures reveal it, so the consciences of all men have some presentiments of it. Where is the man whose conscience never felt any impressions of hope or fear from a future world ? If it is said that
these may be but the effects of education, that, having read such things in the Scriptures, or heard them from preachers, we raise up to ourselves hopes and fears about them ; I demand how the consciences of the heathen, who have neither Scriptures nor preachers, came to be impressed with these things? Does not the apos. tle tell us, that their consciences work upon these things ? Rom. 2:15; their thoughts, with reference to a future state, accuse, or else excuse; that is, their hearts are cheered and encouraged by the good they do, and terrified with fears about the evils they commit. Whereas, if there were no such impression respecting the future, conscience would neither accuse nor excuse for good or evil done in this world.
4. The incarnation and death of Christ are in vain without it. What did he propose to himself, or what be. nefit have we by his coming, if there be no such future state ? Did he take our nature, and suffer such terrible things in it for nothing? If you say, christians have much comfort from it in this life: I answer, the comforts they have are identified with and inseparable from faith and expectation of the happiness to be enjoyed, as the purchase of his blood, in heaven. And if there be no such heaven to which they are appointed, no hell from which they are redeemed, they do but comfort themselves with a fable, and bless themselves with a thing of nought : their comfort is no greater than the comfort of a beggar that dreams he is a king, and when he awakes finds himself a beggar still. Surely the end of Christ's death was to deliver us from the wrath to come, 1 Thess. 1:10; not from an imaginary, but a real hell; to bring us to God, 1 Pet. 3:18; to be the author of eternal salvation to them that obey him. Heb. 5:9.
INFERENCE 1. Is there an eternal state, into which souls pass after this life ? How precious then is present time, upon the improvement whereof that state depends. Oh what a huge weight hath God hung upon a small wire ! God hath set us here in a state of trial; and according as we improve these few hours, so will it fare with us to all eternity. Every day, every hour, nay, every moment of your present time hath an influence upon your eternity. Do you believe this ? What! and yet squander away precious time so carelessly, so vainly! When Seneca heard one promise to spend a week in recreation with a friend that invited him, he wondered that he should make so rash a promise! What, said he, throw away so considerable a part of your life? How can you do it? Surely our prodigality, in the expense of time, argues that we have little sense of vast eternity.
2. How rational are all the duties and self-denial of religion, which serve to promote and secure future eternal happiness! So vast is the disproportion between time and eternity ; between things seen, and things not seen as yet; between the present vanishing and the future permanent state, that he can never be justly reputed wise, that will not let go the best enjoyment he hath on earth, if it stand in the way of his eternal happi. ness. Nor can that man ever escape the just censure of notorious folly, who, for the gratifying of his appetite and present pleasure, parts with eternal glory in heaven. Darius repented that he had lost a kingdom for a draught of water; "Oh,” said he, "for how short a pleasure have I sold a kingdom !" It was Moses' choice, and his choice argued his wisdom, rather "to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season.” Heb. 11: 25.
3. If there be such an eternal state into which souls pass immediately after death; how great a change does death make upon every man! Oh what a serious thing is it to die! It is your passage out of the swift river of time, into the boundless and bottomless ocean of eternity. You that now converse with sensible objects, with men like yourselves, then enter the world of spirits. You that now see the continual revolutions of days and nights, passing away one after another, will then be fixed in a perpetual NOW. Oh what a serious thing is death! The souls of men are now, as it were, asleep in their bodies; at death they awake, and find themselves in the world of realities. Let this teach you, both how to assist dying persons when you visit them, and to make every day some provision for that hour yourselves. Be serious, be plain, be faithful with others that are stepping into eternity; be so with your own souls every day. Oh remember eternity!
Proposition 2. All believers are, at their death, immediate
ly received into a state of glory and eternal happiness.
" This day shalt thou be with me." This proposition the atheist denies: he thinks he shall die, and therefore resolves to live as the beasts that perish. Beryllus, and some others after him, taught that there was indeed a future state of happiness and misery for souls, but that they pass not into it immediately after death, but sleep till the resurrection, and then awake and enter it. But have they found any such intimation in the Scriptures ? Not at all. The Scriptures take notice of no such interval; but plainly enough deny it: "We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and present with the Lord.” 2 Cor. 5:8. No sooner parted from the body, than present with the Lord. So Phil. 1: 23. "Having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better.” If the soul of the apostle was to sleep till the resurrection, how was it far better to be dissolved, than to live? Surely Paul's state in the body had been far better than his state after death, if this were so; for here he enjoyed much sweet communion with God by faith, but then he would enjoy nothing. The Scrip