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all its operations on earth appear to be inseparably allied. Who would not wonder on hearing, for the first time, that the grub, on which we look with so much disgust as it crawls along the ground, becomes, after a short period of torpidity, a beautiful butterfly, that banquets on the nectar of the flower, and glitters in the beams of the summer sun? And yet such is the fact. The wing of this gay insect, which captivates our unaided vision, and wbose variegated hues, when surveyed through the microscope, command the astonished gaze of the naturalist, emerged from the tomb into which an unsightly catterpillar sunk. Now, may we not hence infer, that there is nothing like improbability in the opinion, that death, instead of implying the annihilation of the human being, is merely a process through which he enters into a different and superior condition of existence ?.... But we shall not pursue a mode of reasoning, on which it has been already intimated, that too much reliance ought not to be placed.
Brethren, we have now presented you with a brief view of the several arguments which bave been commonly resorted to, in support of the immortality of the soul. After all, however, it must not be concealed, that these arguments afford only a high degree of probability in relation to this point. They are insufficient of themselves to create a clear and an unfaltering conviction, that man is born for eternity. For such conviction, which lies at the basis of all rational and practical religion, we are indebted to the sacred volume. It is by the gospel that life and immortality are brought to light. Here we learn, of a certainty, that the dissolution of the body is not followed by the extinction of the mind—that, when the dust returns to the earth as it was, the spirit returns to God who
And for what purpose does the spirit return to God who gave it? Our limits will not allow us to answer this question in detail. We would merely remark, in a single word, that the spirit returns to God who gave it, in order to be tried at his bar for the deeds done in the body, and then assigned to a condition of interminable happiness, or interminable misery, according to the nature and desert of those deeds. Reason leads us to presume, that, if the human being is to exist in a future state at all, the circumstances of such existence must correspond to the moral character which he had sustained on earth. And revelation expressly assures us, that, “it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.” It is most certain, then, that the unalterable destiny of every one is determined in the crisis of his dissolution. There is, at that moment, passed upon him, a sentence of righteous retribution, which takes immediate effect, and which, in the approaching day of the general judgment, shall be republished and confirmed before an assembled universe.
Here, then, brethren, we are brought to the conclusion and improvement of our subject. If death, which destroys the body, has no other effect upon the spirit, than to remove it from a state of probation to one of retribution, how important is it, that our conduct in this life, should be regulated by a due sense of our ulterior destination! Let us always act under a deep persuasion of our immortality. Let us not forget, even for a moment, that these material structures are endued with a principle distinct, in all its properties, from matter—a principle which shall survive the dissolution of the planets, and outlive the splendour of the stars--a principle which, when millions and millions of ages have rolled away, shall continue fresh, and young, and vigorous as ever; either rising to higher and higher degrees of enjoyment in the paradise of God-climbing the sun-bright steeps of glory, without a barrier to obstruct its brilliant way,-or else sinking deeper and deeper in the abyss of misery, its torments receiving new accessions of keenness, as its distance from the regions of light and purity increases ! Who that thinks for an instant of the future career of the human being, does not feel the force of our Lord's reflection, “What is a man profited, if he should gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” Poor, indeed, would be that individual, who should barter the undying principle within him, for all that this earth, in the shape of riches, honours, and pleasures, has to bestow. When he reaches the margin of eternity, these delusive pageants must wing their flight, and leave behind them nothing save the torturing recollection of advantages misimproved, and time misemployed.
And now, dear hearers, in the view of such solemn truths, we would entreat you, one and all, to prepare, with becoming earnestness and anxiety, for that crisis in which the dust shall return to the earth as it was, and the spirit ascend to God who gave it. Remember that life is, a mere “vapour, that appeareth for a little while, and then vanisheth away.” Very near
Very near is the period, when we who have met to-day in this house of worshipspeaker and hearer,--shall be numbered with the many generations who have already passed over this brief stage of action, and entered within the veil of eternity. Yes, and let us tell you—even you, our young auditors,—that soon your bodies, which it is now your chief concern to decorate and to gratify, shall be mingled with their elementary dust. And will you devote supremely an
existence so short and uncertain as the present, to any other purpose than that of securing an unalienable inheritance beyond the grave? O! tell us, will you waste in comparatively frivolous pursuits, those inestimable moments, on whose improvement the tremendous destinies of your future being are suspended ? Ignorant of the day and hour in which your souls shall be required of you, will you not endeavour to be always ready for a summons to the bar of your Maker and Judge? “ The Son of man is as a man taking a far journey, who left his house, and gave authority to his servants, and to every man his work, and commanded the porter to watch. Watch ye, therefore; for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cock-crowing, or in the morning; lest coming suddenly, he find you sleeping. And what I say unto you, I say unto all, watch."
Brethren, we cannot leave you, without repeating the same truth which you have heard from this pulpit a thousand times before. If you would contemplate death, each individual for himself, as the prelude to a blissful and glorious immortality, you must found your hopes implicitly and entirely on the Lord Jesus Christ. In him alone is there salvation for sinners like yourselves. Confide in his atonement, and then you may anticipate, with meek and tranquil submission to the divine will, that approaching day, when the body shall return to its kindred dust, and the liberated spirit soar to the Being from whom it sprung. And now, what more shall we say? "Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter. Fear God, and keep his commandments; for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.”
"Lord, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? who shall dwell in thy holy hill?
He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart. He that backbiteth not with his tongue, nor doeth evil to his neighbour, nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbour. In whose eyes a vile person is contemned; but be honoureth them that fear the Lord. He that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not. He that putteth not out his money to usury, nor taketh reward against the innocent. He that doeth these things shall never be moved."
The sacred Scriptures, it has been often remarked, divide mankind into two great classes. According to this classification, every human being is either the friend or the enemy of God. Our Lord, when on earth, expressly taught his disciples, that those who were not with him, were against him. Neutrality in the matter of religion, , is wholly out of the question. There can be no medium between the performance and the neglect of duty-no half-way ground between obedience to the divine will, and disobedience; no stationary spot between holiness and unboliness; no definable point equally removed from the service of God and the service of Mammon— from the love and the hatred of that Being, “in whose hand is our breath, and whose are all our ways."
Now, it is surely of the last importance, that each individual should know, to which of these classes he belongs. And how is this question to be determined? We answer, that the characteristical traits, the distinguishing marks, of the truly pious man, are described most clearly and minutely in the word of God; so that we may all,