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For the glory of God? this end is not answered if there be no future state: for here virtue is ofien oppressed while vice triumphs. Without a state of more equal rewards and punishments, the human race would bring a reproach on the righteous Governor of the world. And consider, I pray you, that you cannot bring a future state into doubt until you have destroyed the evidence on which divine revelation rests ;-the testimony of miracles and prophecies,-the standing testimony of the Jewish nation,--the evidence derived from the unity of design, the holy precepts, and all the vestiges of divinity impressed on the sacred pages; a task which the wisest and best men would die before they would attempt, and which the subtlest enemies of revelation have never been able to accomplish. To risk your immortal all on the performance of such a task! how much better to risk it on the blood of the Lamb of God. Do you believe in a future state, but not future punishment? still the things of eternity and not the world ought to engross your chief attention. Animating prospects of worldly good can prevail to draw your attention from the present moment; how much more should a prospect of immortal happiness? Are you sincere in believing yourselves the heirs of the eternal glories of heaven, and yet so seldom think of futurity, and so deeply affected with the trifles, the joys and disappointments of a moment? Perhaps you believe in future but not in eternal punishment. Well, what would it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul for ages of ages in hell? To avoid one year's imprisonment on earth, you would do and suffer much. To escape then this dreadful punishment after death, (even if it be not endless,) with what anxiety ought you to examine the conditions of pardon, your own character, and labor to make your peace with God. Or have you the unnatural cruelty to disinherit your future selves of all affection, and having followed yourselves with concern through every period to the grave, to bury there with your bodies all self-regard ? Know ye, my beloved friends, that your future selves will be these same conscious beings whose sensations ure so interesting to you at present? These same minds, with the same personal consciousness, will be in heaven or hell. will not be persuaded, I will turn to others who do believe in all the realities of a future state which the Scriptures disclose. To you, my more hopeful hearers, I say, “ What is a man profited if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul ?" That you should want persuasion to value the salvation of the soul above the present world, is among those wonders which want a name. What can be the cause of this ? Doubtless the more remote cause is simple aversion to God and divine things; but the proximate cause is worldly attachment and
The profits, pleasures, and honors of the present life so fill the eye, that the true interest of the soul is not discerned. Were all these things away, the mind, ever restless in pursuit of something, would more readily bend forward to investigate eternal objects. Suffer me
But if you
then to resist these dangerous seducers by urging the solemn aphorism of Him who knew the value of the soul : “ What is a man profited it he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul ? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul ?"
The superior value of the soul will appear from the following considerations :
I. From its essence and capacities. The body is coniposed of dust, like the bodies of other animals. All the treasures of the world are made of dust. But the soul was infused by the breath of God. While the body is fitted for the lower animal functions, and governed by laws common to the animal tribes, the soul is endowed with the moral faculty, which renders it the subject of the dignified and awful government of Jehovah. It is aggrandised with capacities to serve and glorify God, to be useful to men, to relieve the afflicted, and to manage the concerns of nations. It is capable of the heavenly exercises of love, pity, and mercy. The extent of its capacities is amazing. What numberless and surprising inventions for the benefit and ornament of society has it made; what progress in the knowledge of the arts and sciences-in exploring the secrets of the animal, vegetable and mineral kingdoms. It has searched out the bowels of the earth. It has wandered among the stars to calculate their laws and order. It has followed the comets in their immense excursions. It has been found capacious enough to take in the contemplation of world upon world, and system upon system, spread through the regions of boundless space. Its motions are so rapid that it can rove froin star to star, and from world to world, in a moment. No fetters can bind it, no bounds contain it. It is capable of exerting itself like an angel in the employments of the heavenly world; contemplating God, expatiating through his works, and assisting in the anthems of celestial worship. That such a stupendous emanation of divinity should be thrown into ruins—the use of all these godlike faculties be worse than lost, and forever devoted to malice and blasphemy,—so much would not be lost should the material universe fall into one general wreck.
Vast capacities has the soul for happiness and misery. I appeal to those who are acquainted with the pleasures and pains of the mind. No delights which depend on the senses can compare with the serene pleasures of a contented soul, much less with the raptures of a transported soul. And no pains which the body feels can equal the ago*nies of a troubled spirit. The capacity of the soul for happiness and misery will be greatly enlarged at death. It will then be an angel in bliss or a devil in misery ;-rapt in pleasures which no mortal heart can conceive, or laboring with throes and agonies which the imaginations of this infant world are too feeble to paint.
The happiness which appertains to the soul is far the most noble in its kind. How diminutive is the happiness, (if it be worthy of the name,) that can be gathered from the briers and brambles of this wilderness. What are the pleasures of sense, but the half-enjoyed pleasures of the brute ? What are the pleasures of imagination, but utopian visions ? What the pleasures of honor, but palpitating pains ? What the pleasures of riches, but the morose perplexities of care ? What are the pleasures of friendship, but pleasures of the soul ? Nothing is worthy of the name of happiness but that which has its seat peculiarly in the mind. And then how sublime is intellectual delight. In contemplating the dignified happiness of a Newton or a Franklin, we are awed into reverence, and assent that intellectual bliss rises high and out of sight of the low pleasures of the epicure, and feel an instinctive conviction that such happiness ennobles and exalts. But if the happiness of the philosopher so far transcends, what does the happiness of the Christian? If to contemplate the sun and moon produces a delight full of dignity, what does the contemplation of Him who spoke these orbs into being ? The soul alone is capable of enjoying God; and the small portion of this delight which is allotted to Christians here, is by far the most sublime happiness of the present life. But who can conceive the bliss, the dignified and God-like bliss, which their souls will enjoy in heaven! having free access to the infinite God, -diving into the ocean of his exhaustless glory,-swallowed up in the overflowings of his love,-reposing among the tendernesses of his bosom,—towering in the dignity of spirits,-climbing the regions of light and life, the companions of Seraphim and Cherubim,-the very sons of God, and heirs of all the riches and joys of the universe ? What is the world to this? “ Its pomp, its pleasures, and its nonsense all ?"
II. The superior value of the soul appears from the amazing respect that has been paid to it. Man must have been a very important being in the estimation of God, or he would not have built this beautiful and stupendous world for his habitation. But was it for the body that this planet was erected, or was chief respect had to the soul ? It was not built for the dust, but for the immortal part; not for man as a mere animal, but for man as a subject of moral government,-for a nursery in which to foster his infant faculties for the employments of a vigorous and eternal manhood. It is for the life and growth of the soul that the valleys spread out their bosoms,--that the mountains lift up their heads towards heaven,--that ocean, with its million waves, laves the shore,--that serpent, fish, and bird were formed, "and the cattle upon a thousand hills.” It was to light the soul in its way glory that the sun and moon were hung out of heaven. 'Tis for its “sake all nature stands and stars their courses move." Amazing thought! Where am I? Methinks the sun, moon, and stars look down tremblingly to observe its fate. All nature seems to sit in solemn silence, looking out of all her eyes, to watch the destinies of the soul.
But no respect which has been paid to the soul puts so vast an estimate upon it as the price that was paid for its redemption. What
must have been the valuation of the soul in heaven, when that God before whom all nations are as the “dust of the balance,” became an infant in the manger of Bethlehem, sweat blood in Gethsemane, was beaten and spit upon in the judgment hall, and expired on the ragged irons ? Every groan of Calvary pronounced the worth of the soul to be greater than ten thousand material worlds. The Son of God would not have given his life to redeem the whole material universe from ruin. He would not have shed a drop of his blood to save this world with all its lumber from the flames. He will of choice give it to the flames when its use to the soul of man shall be ended. And yet he shed all his blood to save the soul.
God has discovered his high regard for the soul by the pains he has taken to give a written revelation to the world, to establish and preserve a church and houses of worship, to institute sabbaths and sacraments and a Gospel ministry, and by all the labors and calls of six thousand years. The body may be cast upon a dunghill and eaten by worms, and God regards it not; but in the day that the animal part is committed to the loathsome grave, he takes special care that this noble particle of himself shall not enter among the dead, but raps it away to the region of spirits.
Angels also discover their high regard for the soul, by leaving the realms of glory to consume their time upon this distant planet by daily ministrations for its salvation. Should a company of the greatest men in Europe cross the Atlantic to manage a certain business, the world would be looking after them, and would conclude that the interest they came to manage was of vast importance. What then shall we think of the soul ? that "for whose guard the angel bands come flying from above ?"
Heaven and earth, God, angels, and good men are engaged to deli. Ter the soul. And this is not all; hell is in motion to oppose its deliverance. Myriads of principalities and powers are leagued against it. "How great must be the value of the soul,” says one, “when three worlds are thus contending for it.” Would three worlds, I ask, thus contend for this little particle of dust called earth? No, but they will contend for the soul of man.
III. What completes the value of the soul is its immortality, and perhaps eternal progression. This life is but the threshold of our existence,-a breath ; we gasp once here and live forever. owned the whole world it could not attend us a step beyond the grave; but if we once obtain the heavenly inheritance, we shall carry it with us down through the revolving ages of eternity. If want and affliction beset us here, death will soon close the distress; but if we lose our soul the loss will be forever. This is that last death which death itself cannot destroy.
The fashion of this world passes away; the earth will soon grow crazy with age ; the sun itself shall wax
dim in its orbit; the stars shall fall like the leaves of autumn; but the deathless soul shall survive the wreck of worlds. And when another period, as long as the world's age, shall have passed, and as many such periods as there were moments in the first, the soul will have just begun its course. To stand on some eminence like Pisgah and look away into eternity, O what a prospect rushes on the eye! Let imagination spread all her pinions and swiftly pursue the flying soul, through ages of joy enough to dissolve mortal flesh, -and keep on wing and still pursue, through periods which human numbers cannot calculate—until the fancy has got so far from home as hardly to be recalled ;-it must still return and leave the flying soul to explore ages after ages,-a boundless eternity of inexpressible bliss. And when it returns to earth, how it sickens at worldly glory, and calls mortal life a blank, a point, no time at all.
Let it stretch its wings again, and follow the excruciated soul through ages of unutterable endurance--through fire intense enough to melt down all the planets. One period after another passes by it as it flies,- until it looks back on the first million of years as on a speck in the horison, and still it hears the tormented soul exclaim, " My ugony is just begun.” God of mercy, preserve this assembly from this eternity of pain.
Our fainting minds will be overwhelmed with the value of the soul if we admit its eternal progression. It is so difficult to conceive of one's living forever in heaven without acquiring any new ideas, or any deeper impressions from ideas already received, that it is generally believed that holy creatures will forever grow in capacity and enjoyment. And there are certainly passages of Scripture which favor this opinion. I shall venture no assertion on this point; but taking the thing for granted at present, what an august being will a humanı. soul become. Observe its progress in the present life and the dignity which it here accumulates. Yesterday it was a babe weeping in its mother's arms ;-to-day it is a child and we chide it ;-to-morrow it is a philosopher and we revere him. Let this progress be extended to a million of years, and how great has that creature become. A thousand times more ditference between him and a Newton, than between a Newton and an infant. Mark that miniature of man just opening its eyes on the light : yet that minim of being contains a soul which will one day outstrip the ranges of the widest imagination. That spark will grow to the flame of a seraph ; that thinking thing will fly through heaven. Observe that poor Christian doomed to hard labor, covered with sweat and dust. The world sweeps by him without deeming him worthy of a look, and considers him only an animal. Yet that same poor man will soon be greater than a nation combined. While carrying burdens on his bending shoulders, (ye know him not,) he is an angel in disguise : the reverse of the stage, where a poor