Imagens das páginas

it need not be said what fidelity, what circumspection, what care, what perfection of social life, ought to flow from the simple acknowledgment of these most simple and unquestionable principles and duties. ; ) ; 10 --- But our relation to futurity is not that merely of an influence exerted on others, but it is the more solemn relation of an influence, because it is a deeper influence, exerted on ourselves. All is not to end here, indeed ; but we believe, moreover, that what is to go onward is retribution; that while the good have everything to hope, the bad have everything to fear; that every man has enough to hope or to fear-to'occupy many deep and weighty thoughts. We believe that our actions, when committed, are not for ever done with; that the record of life, as it passes, is sealed up for a future inspection; that these days of our mortal existence are to be subjected not merely to that partial review of conscience with which we sometimes close them, but to the tribunal of that great Being who gave to conscience all its power. We expect the day when we shall stand before the judgment-seat ; when the book, ah! how firmly closed against all inspection now !-when the book of our experience will be opened, and we shall be judged out of it. How serious is that prospect! Who can look to that future scene with indifference? Who, while the time of his sojourning here is hastening away, will not pass it in wisdom, and sobriety, and godly fear ?. Oh! there is enough in the bare, the indefinite possibilities of a future account to fill us with apprehension. Our experience tells us that the retribution which awaits the sinful soul cannot be a slight matter; it cannot be a slight matter now; it cannot now be pushed aside by the hand of indiffer

ence. But what shall be that great consummation of the work of conscience, its last infliction, its gnawing worm and unquenchable fire, futurity—the unknown, the awful futurity-alone can reveal; but let us believe, that one word of revelation from that future world would break up our indifference for ever.

But our belief-i. e. the common belief-goes still farther. Each of us probably believes, not only that he has a rational nature, and not only that this is bound by the obligation of duty and to the certainty of retribution, but that this soul is immortal; that there is within him an emanation from the Divinity—which has a being commensurate with that of the Divinity itself—which will live while God exists. What an amazing connexion is this with the future! What thoughts does it suggest for each one of us to meditate upon. “This soul within me,”—may you say—“SO familiar, so endeared to me by its earthly experience —my soul-myself, am to live for ever and ever! Ages will crowd on ages, and yet I shall live. Unbounded systems will revolve—the eternal fires that enlighten them may grow old and die away, and revive again, and kindle their light anew,-and yet the morning of my endless being will hardly have broken around me! Time shall be no longer, and duration shall pass all thought and measurement; yet when ten thousand boundless revolutions of ages are accomplished, and thousands and millions more are added to them, I shall live, and shall yet look forward to eternity! O, poor and vanishing life! O, ye toys of a summer's day, wealth, and fame, and pleasure !_where are ye now?" And yet, brethren, I have seen a man who could be serious in gathering up this perishing dust; yes, I have seen him serious; and anxious with the fear of losses : but he thought it too much to be serious in religion; too much to be anxious for his immortal being! Yes, I have seen him meditate--I have seen him tremble I have seen him labouring-labouring on, through life, with many and wearisome cares; but he cannot meditate, he cannot tremble, he cannot labour for his soul! His indifference to what is spiritual and immortal can be equalled, I was about to say, by nothing: and yet there is one thing to equal it; and that is his eagerness for every passing phantom of this perishing world. His indifference, and all his indifference centres in the only point where his essential interest lies, where his essential being is treasured up-in his soul! and he never saw the day-it is no fiction, it is reality that I utter-he never saw the day, when he could think so much of his soul, when he could labour so much for it, as he can for the most trifling addition to his worldly gains ! · But to escape the charge of an inconsistency so palpable as that which is implied in the acknowledgment of any religious truth, and a total religious indifference, there may be some who are prepared to go farther than we have yet supposed. There may be some who will say, “we believe nothing in regard to religion, and therefore we are bound to feel nothing, and to care nothing, about it.”


I am not sure but I have now presented a case which makes indifference more shocking and monstrous than any other that can be supposed. Let me state it to you in terms. It is common, and it is thought decorous, to repeat a creed in a very deliberate and serious manner. He who says, “ I believe in God, I believe in Jesus Christ, I believe in the life everlasting,” is expected to do it solemnly. But let us listen to the no-creed of the confirmed sceptic. Let a man take his stand beyond the boundaries of all religious truth; beyond the boundaries of light, where all is darkness . before and around him; let him stand there, dimly seen, a cursing spirit, on the borders, to his view, of eternal night ; let him lift up his hand to those heavens shining with ten thousand harmonious systems of worlds--and amidst the ten thousand voices of Nature let him say, “ I believe in nothing, but in darkness, and desolation, and death; I believe in no God; I believe in no Saviour; I believe in no hope hereafter: death is an eternal sleep; the Bible is a fiction ; the adoration of a God is but the dream of bigots and enthusiasts !”—let him say this !—but can he say it without trembling_can he say it without pain, without regret, without one struggle to hold on to the last parting hope of existence? If he can, yet let him know that no one can hear him without trembling; and so awful a spectacle would it be, if a man should thus stand before us, that it would not be strange to us, if the voices of nature, if the mutterings of distant thunder should answer back, and speak in the name of that awful and omnipresent One whose being he denies.

But there may be some men, nay, there are men in this very community, reckless enough in their fearful consistency, and strong enough in their insane courage, to aver that they can say all this without horror or regret. If so, let us see what sort of men they are that can make this averment: let us make a discrimination here, for at this point it becomes-ne

cessary. There are, then, two kinds of unbelievers; the intellectual and refined, and the sensual and brutish unbeliever.

The intellectual and refined unbeliever is one who has usually become such from some peculiarity of mind or misfortune of education, from some misapprehensions of revealed religion or mysticism about Nature, which prevent him, as I think, from feeling the force of plain evidence. The difficulty lies in his mind, and it is a difficulty which he most sincerely regrets. He wishes he could believe. Perhaps he does believe, almost without knowing it. Perhaps he does believe more than he imagines. Perhaps he embraces almost every important truth of the gospel, while he thinks himself obliged, by the laws of evidence, to reject its supernatural origin. But the point which I am concerned at present to insist upon is this, that the intellectual and refined unbeliever always regrets his unbelief. He feels, beyond expression, the wants of an intellectual nature, and he sighs with every aspiration of a burdened soul-in silence, and sadness, and bitterness of heart-he sighs for relief. Now this man is not at ease with regard to religion. Indifference to the subject is the last thing of which to accuse him, He is as far from indifference, perhaps, as the most faithful and devoted Christian. And I would beseech such a one, if I addressed any such, never to suffer himself carelessly to consider his state of mind as an apology for religious negligence. His is the last state of mind that can fairly furnish such an apology. He is bound by every rational consideration to be an anxious seeker of the truth and of the true way. He is not, it is true, in a condition most favourable to improve

« AnteriorContinuar »