« 上一页继续 »
soul, then, instead of being confined in the exercise of its powers by its reunion with a spiritual and glorified body, will thereby possess new and additional means of enjoyment ; in as much as, while its peculiar faculties remain unimpaired, all those which belong to the body will then be added to them. Nor will these powers and capacities be possessed for no purpose. We are assured from the scriptures, that they will be so many inlets of happiness or misery to the soul, and that they will flow with a full and uninterrupted tide forever. The contemplation of the being and perfections of God, and those exhibitions of his glorious sovereignty which are presented in the events of his moral government, according as the heart shall approve or disapprove, will either be a source of perfect and entire satisfaction, constantly calling forth those feelings and affections in the exercise of which consists the highest happiness of the soul,—or it will tend to kindle the fire of all those angry passions which exist in a heart full of malice and disappointed hate; a fire supported by fuel which, though ever consuming, shall never be consumed, till malice be benevolence, and hatred love.
With powers and faculties so ennobling and forming capacities of enjoyment so enlarged, and with a field of bliss and perfect happiness, proportionally vast, and durable as eternity spread full in prospect, how exalted the view in which the character of man presents itself! And now, reader, what, short of the full fruition of all this blessedness, shall satisfy a soul thirsting for immortality. Devotee of wealth, my appeal is more immediately to you. Can a being, possessing a nature so exalted as yours, calmly relinquish his title to the skies, and say to riches, “ye are my portion P” Can gold inspire your bosom with one emotion of that beatific joy which angels feel? Will you place wealth in competition with the bliss of heaven, and then the gold prefer ? But scramble together the dust of the earth ;* treasure up its golden grains ; encompass yourself with piles of hoarded wealth ; and from this softest nest of earth, enter the gates of the New-Jerusalem, and after participating in the joys of heaven, after tasting the rivers of pleasure which flow from the midst of the throne, look down upon it from the paradise of God and say, is it a portion worthy of the immortal mind ? Would he who has walked through the golden streets of the New-Jerusalem, sicken at the thought of making earth his home ?—Then say no more ** to-morrow." Let the inferior good no longer engross your atten
* See Frontispiece.
tion while the greater is at stake. Lose not your portion in those durable riches which are laid up in heaven, and to which your attention is now directed, nor miss the crown of life which is now offered you, for the sake of treasuring up a shining, paltry portion here. For it will too late appear that you have been feeding on wind,-yea, that you have been securing a portion which will pass away like smoke before the wind and “chaff before the whirlwind."
J. M. Y.
REFLECTIONS ON CHRISTIAN HOPE.
WILL my candid readers indulge me for a moment in making this my second monthly visit, while with the frankness of intimate friendship I speak to you on the subject of christian hope.
That there exists a feeling of the soul, or a confident expectation with regard to the future world, which is appropriately called christian hope, and that many have already felt its cheering influence when the dark clouds of adversity were gathering around and threatening to visit them with calamities, under which it would seem they must sink in despair, are positions which scarcely need an argument to entitle them to the entire confidence of my readers. For on what other ground can we account for all that we have seen and heard of those who have passed through the scenes of life before us, and have experienced little which in itself could render life pleasant or even desirable ? Many there are whose whole pilgrimage through this world presents but one dark picture, where the retrospective eye looks in vain for a ray of light to relieve the uninterrupted darkness of the scene. Whence the tranquillity they enjoy,--whence the comfort and consolation in which they so largely and so constantly participate ? Unquestionably it springs from a hope full of immortality ;-—that “hope which is an anchor to the soul, sure and steadfast.” Remove this, and that calm tranquillity which you observed in them before would soon forsake them ; they would soon be borne away by the adverse gales of time; and having nothing by which they might safely hold, would be precipitated into that bottomless gulf of despair whence there is no return. ' Confine the hopes and expectations of the christian within the narrow limits of time, and you mar the foundation on which rests all that he holds dear ;- you cast over him a cloud of thick darkness, which no glimmering ray of hope will penetrate, while he gropes his way through life only to meet the thicker darkness of the grave. Nor can you drive this despairing gloom from his mind, till you light up again in his heart the hope of immortal life and glory. When this is done, he rises at once superior to all the events of time. He places himself for a moment in the situation of a glorified saint, who enjoys in the presence of his Redeemer, the full fruition of all that his present hopes can grasp, and then looks back upon the concerns of time and
sees them, as they are, too unimportant to engage the attention or disturb the peace of an immortal mind. In this state of mind, what though “woes cluster;"?—what though calamities gather around, and the storms of adversity beat upon his shelterless head ; he stands unmoved like the rock, around whose base the foaming billows spend their rage in vain, and patiently waits the hour of his release. And even if prosperity smiles,-if fortune bestows her richest gifts upon him, and friends encircle him in the bosom of affection, he still remains unmoved, save that the feelings of gratitude are rekindled in his breast, and glow with redoubled ardor ;-be still says and feels that these are not his portion, these are not his God. Thus so long as he finds “the witness in himself” that he loves God, he has the assurance that “all things," whether prosperous or adverse, “ shall work together for his good."
And now, reader, let me ask you seriously, if you know by your own experience the value of this christian hope. Have you felt its power to raise you above the concerns of the present life, and fix your thoughts and your affections on things eternal ? Bear with me while I urge the question solemnly to your conscience; for it is one of everlasing moment to you. Nor is it so difficult to decide as you perhaps have been accustomed to consider it. It is only to ascertain what is the general character of your feelings, and in what situation and circumstances you find your chief pleasure. You enter the circle of mirth and gaiety; and what are the exercises of your mind there ? Do you find the scene congenial with your feelings ?-are you wishing for its continuance; and when it is past do you look forward with a longing wish for the return of another like season of hilarity ? Or, on the other hand, do you find that your heart does not beat in unison with the scene before you, but that you are pained to see your fellow beings thus trifle away their precious moments of probation ;-and do you long for the retirement of the closet, where you may pour out your soul in prayer to God for their salvation ? But it is needless for me to multiply interrogations ; it is not by the efforts of others, but by constant and impartial watching ourselves, that we can obtain a knowledge of our hearts. And are not the interests of the soul of sufficient importance to awaken our attention ?-But I will pursue the subject no farther; remember, if you have the christian's hope you will be led to "purify yourself, even as God is pure." Come then, and let us pursue our pilgrimage through life, cheered on our way by all the consoling and animating prospects which are brought to view in the christian's hope.
THE REPORT OF THE SPIES.
* They brought up an evil report of the land which they had searched, unto the
children of Israel.”........NUMBERS xiii. 32.
THE connection of these words, I hope, is familiar to all my fellow Pilgrims. They relate to the conduct of the faithless spies,
who were sent from the wilderness of Paran, to investigate and report the situation of the promised land. With this good land it ap. pears they were dissatisfied ; and they returned with an evil account of it to the children of Israel.
I think it admissible, and even scriptural, to consider the passage of the Israelites from Egypt to Canaan as an instructive allegory. The wilderness is an emblem of this wilderness world—the journey of God's people through it represents very fitly our journey through life--the Jordan, rolling between them and the end of their pilgrimage, reminds us of the cold river of death and Canaan was a type of heaven. Thus we customarily speak of the heavenly Canaan. Pursuing the figure, the report of the spies, who went to Canaan and returned, becomes highly instructive. It teaches us what would be the views of sinners, were they admitted to the heavenly state. They would be dissatisfied and disgusted with the world above; and were they permitted to return to their companions on earth, they would bring back“ an evil report” of heaven.
They would commence their report, perhaps, by stating that they found themselves alone in heaven. “We were ulone in our opposi. tion to the Divine character. The praises of God moved every other tongue; the love of God filled every other heart. We were solitary enemies. We were alone too, in our rebellion against the Divine government. While all around us rejoiced, that the Lord God omnipotent was on the throne, we were obliged to murmur by ourselves. Indeed we were alone, in regard to the general disposition of our hearts. We had no kindred spirit-no complacent associate. In all the myriads of heaven, there was no one who felt as we felt, or entertained views similar to ours."
Sinners returning from heaven to earth would further report, that they found there no such qualifications as they desired. The intemperate and profligate would say, “We saw there no dram shops, no intoxicating liquors, nothing to satisfy our raging appetites. We had no merry companions, no midnight revels, no scenes of riot, de. bauchery and mirth. Every thing was so sober and regular in heaven, that we were soon satisfied it could be no place for us.”
The votaries of pleasure would return and complain, “ When we came to heaven, that world which we had heard so frequently and so highly extolled ; we found it a gloomy, miserable region. There were no cards, no balls, no plays, assemblies, or parties of sinful pleasure. Indeed there were no amusements at all, of course there was no enjoyment for us. Every thing we saw was so decidedly religious, and to us so disgustful, that we could hardly consent to spend an hour there—much less could we wear out a long eternity. We effected our escape as soon as possible, and have hastened our return to the vastly preferable enjoyments of earth.”
The avaricious, could they return, might be expected to say, “It was always our delight to be in the pursuit and acquisition of wealth. We never could be happy, unless we were laying up something for the time to come. We had often heard of the glories of heaven-of the pearly gates and golden streets of the celestial city; and it was long our desire and hope, that we should be permitted to reach
these realms of bliss. Our wishes in this respect have been accomplished. We have been there and carefully searched out the promised land. But alas, alas! how we were disappointed ! How different is heaven from what we expected and desired! There is no private property, and no possibility of ever acquiring any. There is no enterprise, no speculation, no scramble for wealth, no titles, no possessions. There is no oppression of one person for the benefit of another; no rich, no poor. The heavenly inhabitants are all equal in point of property; and indeed are all equally destitute—not one having any thing which he chooses to call his own. In such a world, we could not possibly be happy. We embraced the first opportunity to escape, and return to our supremely loved possessions on earth."
The report of the ambitious and aspiring would probably be different from either that has been given. After stating the high ideas they had previously entertained of heaven, and of the honors there to be enjoyed, they might be expected to add, “We have been grievously disappointed. We found no such honors there as we had contemplated, or as we covet. We could be advanced to no throne, which was any thing in our estimation. We saw no crowns which were worth our wearing—no crown except that of the Deity, with which we could be pleased or satisfied. We found no possibility of acquiring influence or exercising authority over those about us. Our supreme desire of course was not gratified. The fire of our ruling passions was not assuaged. These things, with others, rendered us miserable, and induced us to escape, as soon as possible, to the world we had left.”
Sinners of all descriptions, who should visit heaven and return, would report the employments of the place to be exceedingly unpleasant. They would be disappointed, not only in not finding such gratifications as they desired, but in finding all heaven filled and occupied with concerns for which they had no relish. “Heaven," they would say, “is constantly and forever occupied in the services of religion. It is one endless Sabbath-one continued scene of devotion. No person had any thing to say on subjects that were gratifying to us-every word related to religion, redemption, the grace and the glory of God. We could not endure such conversation on earth, nor could we endure it in heaven. We heard till we were wearied and disgusted with it. We could have borne with some religion ; but we had no intervals. We could have consented to the round of heavenly duties a little while ; but to wear out eternity in such a manner-the thought was of all others the most painful. We were surrounded with those who appeared and professed to be very happy ; but, as for us, we were perfectly miserable. To find nothing there that we loved or had expected ; but, on the contrary, to find such things only as were disgustful and odious; and to think of mingling with them forever and ever ;-what idea could be more exquisitely dreadful! No-give us any thing, rather than heaven. Send us any where, rather than to the celestial regions. Of all places in the universe, that is, by us, the least to be desired.”