Page images
PDF
EPUB

But, after the resurrection, a total change will take place. “ This body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption : it is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory : it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power : it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. The first man is of the earth, earthy; the second man is the Lord from heaven. As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy, and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly."a So refined and spiritual a body could never be the receptacle of a polluted, selfish, fraudulent, insidious, oppressive, envious, malicious, vindictive, cruel, and impious soul. Its

gross
and

putrid vapour would soon escape so pure a vehicle, or rather, could never be introduced into it. So that the doctrine of the resurrection of the just affords one of the strongest motives to moral renovation, and to the acquisition of those habits of soul which must be indispensably necessary for the enjoyment of the new embodied existence insured to the faithful disciples of Christ.

III. No sensitive being can receive pleasure or delight, but by means of the organs of perception with which it is endued. The gratification of its innate instincts and propensities, and the easy exercise of all its powers, must constitute the happiness of every such being, and its misery must be placed in the total want of this gratification, and in the pain and suffering of its corporeal frame. The more various, multiplied, and exalted the faculties and organs of perception of every being are, the more abundant must be its sources both of enjoyment and of misery. The higher orders of being possess enjoyments which belong not to the lower, and they are equally susceptible of pains and distresses, from which these last are totally exempt. Man is furnished with sources of happiness or of misery, of which the merely animal creation can have no perception ; and the angels, being endued with faculties greatly superior to those of our species, must necessarily surpass them in the happiness which they are capable of receiving; and, if these faculties are perverted, as was the case with the fallen and apostate angels, must be subject to a degree of misery proportionably greater.

a 1 Cor. xv. 42–44, 47-49.

Man, possessing an intellectual and moral spirit, united to an admirably constructed corporeal frame, fitted for conveying to its spiritual inhabitant a great variety of perceptions, as the elements of its knowledge, and as the materials of its operations, intellectual, moral, and imaginative, must find his happiness of a twofold character, mental and corporeal. It consists in the ex

of per

ercise and gratification of his powers of intellect, of moral feeling, and of imagination, and of those external senses which are both the organs ception to the mind, and are necessary for the preservation and good condition of the body. His misery is placed in the perversion, the depravation, the debility, and contraction of his intellectual and moral faculties, and in those pains, distresses, and diseases which affect his corporeal frame, unfit it for performing its animal functions, and impede even the mental exertions; and indeed, properly speaking, human misery is placed in both these combined ; for they can hardly be separated. When reason and the moral faculty maintain their supremacy in the mind, and preserve the just balance of the affections and passions, and the body enjoys natural health and vigour, the terrestrial happiness of man is completed, the ends of his present existence are attained, and he feels and exults that he is in that right and proper state which the constitution of his nature requires.

But man has also a strong anticipation of futurity, and desires, not only to perpetuate his enjoyments, but to increase and enlarge them. He knows that death is inevitable, and must close this earthly scene. In all ages of the world, however, this natural desire of continued and increased felicity, together with the soundest reflections on the present condition of mankind,

and on the divine administration, have suggested the belief of a future state of retribution, in which virtue shall obtain its consummate reward, and vice be finally punished according to its deserts. This belief revelation has completely confirmed and established.

All the pure and genuine sources of man's felicity were corrupted and poisoned by sin; and since the fall of our first parents, no real happiness, in all its extent, has existed on earth. The gospel has remedied this evil, as far as it is susceptible of remedy in man's present state. It has, by the assurance of the pardon of sin, removed the principal cause of his misery, has rendered him capable of reconciliation with his Creator, and, by the all-sufficient atonement of Christ, rendered it just with God, and consistent with the interests of his moral government, to extend to mankind his mercy, protection, and favour. But, by the means provided for the moral improvement and sanctification of our species, it has also restored them to a capacity of the happiness belonging to our nature, and even to a much higher degree than was insured to original innocence. Deliverance from the consequences of moral corruption spread through all the descendants of Adam; and the improvement of all those noble powers with which they are endued, the renovation of their vigour, and the capacity of attaining their objects, constitute

[ocr errors]

what is termed salvation. The former of these is only the prelude to the other, without which this last could not proceed. So that the sanctification, or moral renovation of man, may be justly considered as the grand object of the gospel scheme.

From the hour that the sentence, “ in the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die, was incurred by transgression, man was rendered subject to death, and to all the evils with which his altered terrestrial state was surrounded. It necessarily became no longer a state of unsullied happiness ; but, by the merciful dispensation fully unfolded by the gospel, it was converted into a preparation for consummate and endless felicity. This is the proper light in which the present life is now to be viewed, namely, as a state of probation and trial, in which are to be established either the capacities of true and endless enjoyment, or such habits and dispositions as necessarily exclude real enjoyment for ever.

No absolute decree of God, because God cannot perform either moral or physical impossibilities, could introduce into heaven a wicked man. The enjoyment of heaven implies the consummation of all virtue, which is necessarily con- .

[blocks in formation]
« PreviousContinue »