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tives by their privitives, and other arts of reason, by which discourse supplies the want of the reports of sense, we may collect the excellency of the understanding then, by the glorious remainders of it now, and guess at the stateliness of the building by the magnificence of its ruins. All those arts, rarities, and inventions, which vulgar minds gaze at, the ingenious pursue, and all admire, are but the relics of an intellect defaced with sin and time. We admire it now only as antiquaries do a piece of old coin for the stamp it once bore, and not for those vanishing lineaments and disappearing draughts that remain upon it at present. And certainly that must needs have been very glorious, the decays of which are so admirable. He that is comely when old and decrepit surely was very beautiful when he was young. An Aristotle was but the rubbish of an Adam, and Athens but the rudiments of Paradise.
Dr R. South.
10.—THE DEPARTED SPIRITS OF THE JUST ARE SPECTATORS
OF OUR CONDUCT ON EARTH.
FROM what happened on the Mount of Transfiguration, we may infer not only that the separated spirits of good men live and act, and enjoy happiness, but that they take some interest in the business of this world, and even that their interest in it has a connexion with the pursuits and habits of their former life. The virtuous cares which occupied them on earth follow them into their new abode. Moses and Elias had spent the days of their temporal pilgrimage in promoting among their brethren the knowledge and the worship of the true God. They are still attentive to the same great object; and, enraptured at the prospect of its advancement, they descend on this occasion to animate the labours of Jesus, and to prepare him for his victory over the powers of hell. • What a delightful subject of contemplation does this reflection open to the pious and benevolent mind! what a spring does it give to all the better energies of the heart! Your labours of love, your plans of beneficence, your swellings of satisfaction in the rising reputation of those whose virtues you
have cherished, will not, we have reason to hope, be terminated by the stroke of death. No! your spirits will still linger around the objects of their former attachment. They will behold with rapture even the distant effects of those beneficent institutions which they once delighted to rear; they will watch with a pious satisfaction over the growing prosperity of the country which they loved; with a parent's fondness, and a parent's exultation, they will share in the fame of their virtuous posterity; and, by the permission of God, they may descend at times as guardian angels, to shield them from danger, and to conduct them to glory.
Of all the thoughts that can enter the human mind, this is one of the most animating and consolatory. It scatters flowers around the bed of death. It enables us who are left behind, to support with firmness the departure of our best beloved friends; because it teaches us that they are not lost to us for ever. They are still our friends. Though they be now gone to another apartment in our Father's house, they have carried with them the remembrance and the feeling of their former attachments. Though invisible to us, they bend from their dwelling on high to cheer us in our pilgrimage of duty, to rejoice with us in our prosperity, and, in the hour of virtuous exertion, to shed through our souls the blessedness of heaven.
RELIGION, on account of its intimate relation to a future state, is every man's proper business, and should be his chief care. Of knowledge in general, there are branches which it would be preposterous in the bulk of mankind to attempt to acquire, because they have no immediate connexion with their duties, and demand talents which nature has denied, or opportunities which providence has withheld. But with respect to the primary truths of religion the case is different; they are of such daily use and necessity, that they form not the materials of mental luxury so properly as the food of the mind. In improving the character, the influence of general knowledge is often feeble and always indirect; of religious knowledge the tendency to purify the heart is immediate, and forms its professed scope and design. “This is life eternal, to know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” To ascertain the character of the supreme author of all things, to know, as far as we are capable of comprehending such a subject, what is his moral disposition, what the situation we stand in towards him, and the principles by which he conducts his administration, will be allowed by every considerate person to be of the highest consequence. Compared to this all other speculations sink into insignificance; because every event that can befall us is in his hands, and by his sentence our final condition must be fixed. To regard such an inquiry with indifference, is the mark not of a noble, but of an abject mind. which, immersed in sensuality, or amused with trifles, “ deems itself unworthy of eternal life.” To be so absorbed in worldly pursuits as to neglect future prospects, is a conduct that can plead no excuse until it is ascertained beyond all doubt or contradiction that there is no hereafter, and that nothing remains but that " we eat and drink, for to-morrow we die.” Even in that case, to forego the hope of immortality without a sigh; to be gay and sportive on the brink of destruction, in the very moment of relinquishing prospects, on which the wisest and the best in every age have delighted to dwell, is the indication of a base and degenerate spirit. If existence be a good, the eternal loss of it must be a great evil; if it be an evil, reason suggests the propriety of inquiring why it is so, of investigating the maladies by which it is oppressed. Amidst the darkness and uncertainty which hang over our future condition, Revelation, by bringing life and immortality to light, affords the only relief. In the Bible alone we learn the real character of the Supreme Being; his holiness, justice, mercy, and truth, the moral condition of man, considered in relation to Him, is clearly pointed out, the doom of impenitent transgressors denounced; and the method of obtaining mercy, through the interposition of a divine mediator, plainly revealed.
12.—THE END OF THE YEAR. ANOTHER year has now been added to an irrevocable account. It has passed into the record of Heaven--into the memory of God! The seal of eternity has been put upon it; so that it stands irreversible for ever; stands an unalterable portion of our everlasting existence. The awful force of this consideration comes peculiarly upon the moments and feelings, when we could wish some part of it altered. And think with what force it would come, if it were under a mere economy of divine justice. But then what a glorious appointment of the divine mercy is that which can reverse the effect—the actual consequence of the guilty portion of the past year-reverse it as to the appropriate and deserved retribution! But this doctrine of mercy must not be abused, and therefore another thing in our review of the past year should be to observe what there has been in it which ought not to be in another. Let a careful and even severe account be taken of those things; and then say whether it be not enough that the past year bears on its character such things for ever. Let them be strongly marked as what ought not to pass the dividing line between this year and the next; and let them be earnestly opposed when they shall come to do so. Would that an angel, as with a flaming sword, might stand on the border to repel them! The Almighty Spirit can do this for us.
Here may arise a further reflection in the form of a question; What would have been our situation if the whole of the year had not been given to us? Would less have sufficed as to the supreme purpose of life? Can we go back in thought to points and periods of it and say, there, in its earlier months or there, at the middle, our time might have closed, and all would have been well? or, if near the end, or yesterday, or to-day, our time had closed, all had been well? But if there be not ground for an humble confidence that all would have been well, the year closes ill. And can there be a mightier admonition for the commencement of another year?
Another reflection may be on our further experience of mor
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tal life and the world. We have seen it-tried it-judged it-thus much. Has the estimate brightened upon us by experience? Have we obtained a practical refutation of the sacred oracles that have pronounced“ Vanity" upon it? Now the results of experience should really stand for something in our views of this mortal state-and in the degree of our attachment to it. And besides, what should be the effect of this further knowledge of the nature and quality of this mortal state? At first we may be said to have had vital ties to the whole .extent of this mortal life-we held to life by each year of the whole allotment. But each year withdrawn cuts that tie, like the cutting in succession of each of the spreading roots of a tree. The consumption of this last year has cut away another of these holds on life, these ties of connexion and interest. Now there should, in spirit and feeling, be a degree of detachment in proportion.
In whatever way we consider the subtraction of one year from our whole allotment, it is an important circumstance. It reduces to a narrower space the uncertainty of life's continuance. It brings us nearer to see what we are likely to be at the end, and after the end. It has increased the religious danger, if there be danger. It tells us of too much that now can never be done. It has added very greatly to the weight of every consideration that ought to impel us to make the utmost of what may remain.
As the last reflection we may suggest, that the year departed may admonish us of the strange deceptiveness, the stealthiness of the flight of time. There have been a prodigious number of minutes and hours to look forward to, and each hour, at the time, did not seem to go so wonderfully fast; and yet how short a while they now seem to have been in all vanishing away. It will be so in what is to come. Each day will beguile us with this deception, if we are not vigilant; and will leave us still to do that which it should have done. Therefore every period and portion of it,—the ensuing year and each part of it, should be entered on with emphatically imploring our God to save us from spending it in vain.