Imágenes de página

world shall be remembered only as a dream when one awaketh. No longer shall the earth exhibit any of those scenes which now delight our eyes. The whole beautiful fabric is thrown down, never more to arise. As soon as the destroying angel has sounded the last trumpet, the everlasting mountains fall; the foundations of the world are shaken; the beauties of nature, the decorations of art, the labours of industry, perish in one common flame. The globe itself shall either return into its ancient chaos, without form and void; or, like a star fallen from the heavens, shall be effaced from the universe, and its place shall know it no more.

This day of the Lord, as it is foretold in the text, will come as a thief in the night; that is, sudden and unexpected, Mankind, notwithstanding the presages given them, shall continue to the last in their wonted security. Our Saviour tells us, that, as in the days of Noah before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage until the flood came, and took them all away, so shall also the coming of the son of man be, *. How many

projects and designs shall that day suddenly What long contrived schemes of


* Matthew, xxxiv. 38.

pleasure shall it overthrow? What plans of cunning and ambition shall it utterly blast? How miserable they, whom it shall overtake in the midst of dark conspiracies, of criminal deeds, or profligate pleasures? In what strong colours is their dismay painted, when they are represented, in the book of Revelations, as calling to the hills and mountains to fall on them and cover them?-Such descriptions are apt to be considered as exaggerated. The impression of those awful events is weakened by the great distance of time at which our imagination places them. But have not we had a striking image set before us, in our own age, of the terrors which the day of the Lord shall produce, by those partial ruins of the world, which the visitation of God has brought on countries well known, and not removed very far from ourselves? When, in the midst of peace, opulence, and security, suddenly the earth was felt by the terrified inhabitants to tremble, with violent agitation, below them; when their houses began to shake over their heads, and to overwhelm them with ruins; the flood, at the same time to rise from its bed, and to swell around them; when, encompassed with universal desolation, no friend could aid another; no prospect of escape appeared; no place of refuge remained; how similar were such

scenes of destruction to the terrors of the last

day? What similar sensations of dread and remorse, and too late repentance, must they have excited among the guilty and profane?

To such formidable convulsions of nature, we, in these happy islands, through the blessing of heaven, are strangers; and strangers to them may we long continue! But, however we may escape partial ruins of the globe, in its general and final ruin we also must be involved. To us must come at last that awful day when the sun shall for the last time arise, to perform his concluding circuit round the world. They how blest, whom that day shall find employed in religious acts, or virtuous deeds; in the conscientious discharge of the duties of life; in the exercise of due preparation for the conclusion of human things, and for appearing before the great Judge of the world! Let us now,

III. Contemplate the soul of man, as remaining unhurt in the midst of this general desolation, when the whole animal creation perishes, and the whole frame of nature falls into ruins. What a high idea does this present, of the dignity pertaining to the rational spirit! The world may fall back into chaos;

but, superior to matter, and independent of

all the changes of material things, the soul continues the same. When the heavens pass away with a great noise, and the elements melt with fervent heat, the soul of man, stamped for immortality, retains its state unimpaired; and is capable of flourishing in undecaying youth and vigour. Very different indeed the condition of human spirits is to be, according as their different qualities have marked, and prepared them, for different future mansions. But for futurity they are all destined. Existence, still, is theirs. The capacity of permanent felicity they all possess; and if they enjoy it not, it is owing to themselves.

Here, then, let us behold what is the true honour and excellence of man. It consists not in his body; which, beautiful or vigorous as it may now seem, is no other than a fabric of dust, quickly to return to dust again. It is not derived from any connection he can form with earthly things; which, as we have seen, are all doomed to perish. It consists in that thinking part which is susceptible of intellectual improvement and moral worth, which was formed after the image of God; which is capable of perpetual progress in drawing nearer to his nature; and shall

partake of the divine eternity, when time and the world shall be no more. This is all that is respectable in man. By this alone he is raised above perishable substances, and allied to those that are celestial and immortal. This part of our nature, then, let us cultivate with care; and on its improvement, rest our selfestimation. If, on the contrary, suffering ourselves to be wholly immersed in matter, plunged in the dregs of sensuality, we behave as if we were only made for the body and its animal pleasures, how degenerate and base do we become? Destined to survive this whole material system, sent forth to run the race of immortality and glory, shall we thus abuse our Maker's goodness, degrade our original honour, and sink ourselves into deserved misery? It remains, that,

IV. We contemplate the dissolution of the world, as the introduction to a greater and nobler system, in the government of God. We, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. * Temporal things are now to give place to things eternal. To this earthly habitation is to succeed the city of the living

* 2 Pet. iii. 13.

« AnteriorContinuar »