« AnteriorContinuar »
8. But still our souls, being incorruptible and iinmortal, of a nature little lower than the angels, (even if we are to understand that phrase of our original nature, which may well admit of a doubt) when our bodies are moula dered into earth, will remain with all their faculties. Our memory, our understanding will be so far from being destroyed, yea, or impaired by the dissolution of the body, that on the contrary, we have reason to believe, they will be inconceivably strengthened. Have we not the clearest reason to believe, that they will then be wholly freed from those defects, which now naturally result from the union of the soul with the corrups tible body? It is highly probable, that from the time these are disunited, our memory will let nothing slip: yea, that it will faithfully exhibit every thing to our view, which was ever committed to it. It is true, that the invisible world is in scripture termed the land of forgetfulness; or as it is still more strongly expressed in the old translation, the land where all things are forgot ten. They are forgotten ; but by whom? Not by the inhabitants of that land, but by the inhabitants of the earth. It is with regard to them that the unseen world is the land of forgetfulness. All things therein are too frequently forgotten by these ; but not by disembodied spirits. From the time they have put off the earthly tas bernaclc, we can hardly think they forget any thing.
9. In like manner the understanding will doubtless be freed, from the defects that are now inseparable from it. For many ages it has been an unquestioned maxim, Himanum est errare & nescire : Ignorance and mistake are inseparable from human nature. But the whole of this assertion is only true, with regard.co living men, and holds no longer, chan while the corruptible body presses down the soul. Ignorance indeed belongs to every finite understanding, seeing there is none beside God that konweth all things : but do not mistake. When the body is laid aside, this also is laid aside for ever.
10. What then can we say of an ingenious man, who has lately made a discovery, that disembodied spirits have not only no senses (not even no sight or hearing) but no memory or understanding, no thought or perception, not
so much as a consciousness of their own existence ? That they are in a dead sleep from death to the resurrection? Consanguineus lethi sopor indeed! Such a sleep we may well call a near kinsman of death, if it be not the same thing. What can we say, but that ingenious men have strange dreams: and these they sometimes mistake for realities.
ill. But to return. As the soul will retain its understanding and memory, notwithstanding the dissolution of the body, so undoubtedly the will, including all the affections, will remain in its full vigour. If our love or anger, our hope or desire perish, it is only with regard to those whom we leave behind. To them it matters not, whether they were the objects of our love or hate, of our desire or aversion. But in separate spirits: themselves, we have no reason to believe, that any of these are extinguished. It is more probable, that they work with far greater force, than while the soul was clogged with flesh and blood. 31. 12. But although all these, although both our knowJedge and senses, our memory and understanding, together with our will, our love, hate, and all our affections, remain after the body is dropt off, yet in this respect they are as though they were not, we are no longer -stewards of them. The things. continue, but our stewardship does notu. we no more act in that capacity. Even the grace which was formerly intrusted with us, in order to enable us to be faithful and wise, stewards, is „now no longer intrusted for that purpose.
The days of our stewardship are ended.
**. III. 1. It now remains, that being no longer stewards, we give an account of our stewardship. Some have imagined, this is to be done immediately after death, as soon as we enter into the world of spirits. : Nay, the church of Rome does absolutely assert this; yea, makes it an article of faith. And thus much we may allow, the moment a soul drops the body, and stands naked before God, it cannot bịt know what its portion will be to all eternity. It will have full in its view, either everlasting joy, or everlasting torment; as it is no longer possible for us to be deceived, in the judgment
which we pass upon ourselves. But the scripture gives us no reason to believe, that God will then sit in judg. ment upon us:
There is no passage in all the oracles of God, which affirms any such thing. That which has been frequently alledged for this purpose, seems rather to prove the contrary : namely, (Heb. ix. 27.) It is appointed for men once to die
, and after this, the judgment. For in all reason, the word once is here to be applied to judgment as well as death. So that the fair inference to be drawn from this very text, is, not that there are two judgments, a particular and a general: but that we are to be judged as well as to die, once only: not once immediately after death, and again after the general resurrection ; but then only when the Son of Man shall come in his glory, and all his holy angels with bim. The imagination therefore of one judgment at death, and another at the end of the world, can have no place with those who make the written word of God, the whole and sole standard of their faith.
2. The time then when we are to give this account, is when the great white throne comes down from heaven, and he that sitteth thereon, from whose face the heavens and the earth flee away, and there is found no place for them. It is then the dead, small and great, will stand before God: and the book: will be opened ; the book of scripture, to them who were intrusted therewith, the book of conscience to all mankind. The book of remembrance likewise, (to use another scriptural expression) which had been writing from the foundation of the world, will then be laid open to the view of all the children of men. Before all these, even the whole human race, before the devil and his angels, before an innumerable company of holy angels, and before God, the Judge of all : thou wilt appcar, without any shelter or covering, without any possibility of disguise, to give a particular account of the manner wherein thou hast employed all thy Lord's goods.
3. The Judge of all will then enquire, “How didst thou employ thy soul? I intrusted thee with an immortal spirit, endowed with various powers and faculties, with understanding, imagination, memory, will, affeétions. I gave thee withal full and express directions, how
all these were to be employed. Didst thou employ thy understanding, as far as it was capabls, according to those directions, namely, in the knowledge of thyself and me? My nature, my attributes? My works, whether of creation, of providence, or of grace? In acquainting thyself with my word ? In tsing every means to increase thy knowledge thereof? In meditating thereon dny and night? Didst thou employ thy meinóry according to my will? In treasuring up whatever knowledge thou hadst acquired, which might conduce to my glory, to thy own salvation, or the advantage of others? Didst thou store up therein, not things of no value, but whatever instruction thou hadst learned from my word : and whatever experience thou hadst gained, of my wisdom, truth, power, and mercy ? Was thy imagination en played, not in painting rain images, niuch less such as nourished foolish and hurtful desire , but in representing to thée "whatever would profit thy soul, and awaken thy pursuit of wisdoni and holiness? Didst thou follow my directions with regard to thy will? Was it wholly gwen up to me? Was it swallowed up in mine, so as never to oppose, but always run parallel wich it ? Wore thy affections placed and regulatet in such 2 manner, as I appointed in my word? Didst thou give me thy heart ? Didst thou not love the world, neither the things of the world ? Was I the object of thy love? Was all thy desire unto me, and unto the remembrance of my name? Was I ithe joy of thy heart, the delight of thy soul; the chief among ten thousand ? Didst thou sorrow for nothing but what grieved my Spirit ? Didst thou fear and hate nothing but sin ? Did the whole stream of thy. afSections flow back to the ocean from wlience they came? Were thy thoughts ernployed according to my will ? Not in ranging to the ends of the earth, not on follý, or sin : but on what soever things were pure, whatsoever things were holy, on whatsoever was conducive to my glory, and to peace and good-will
and good-will among men ? " 4.
The Lord will then enquire, " How didst thou employ the body wherewith i intrusted thee? I gave thee a' tongue, to praise me therewith : didst theu use it to the end for which it was given? Didst thou
employ it, not in evil speaking or idle-speaking, not