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object in the scene before him more particularly under review, and make it the subject of examination; and by that means he becomes familiar with the upper world, and all the feelings and desires which fit him for the full enjoyment of it are strengthened. This is the great design of such contemplations, and when found to answer the end, they ought to be pursued as an important part of christian duty, and used as a means of increasing his acquaintance with objects and scenes amongst which he expects soon to be brought into immediate contact, and from which he knows he shall derive unmingled and eternal enjoyment.
This employment, as well from its nature as from the effect which it has upon the mind, is worthy of the highest exercise of all the powers of the soul. It cannot be profitably engaged in while the mind is encumbered and distracted by the cares and the business of the world. The spiritual advantage of which it is productive, when properly pursued, cannot be secured by feeble efforts made but with half the heart, and in circumstances unfavourable to their
who would rise upon the wings of faith to contemplate the glories of heaven must endeavour to divest himself of the encumbrances arising from the business and the cares of time; he must be familiar with retirement, and seek, in soli. tude, when removed as far as possible from the influence of present things, those visions of the celestial world which have so frequently cheered and refreshed the people of God upon earth, and afforded the richest foretastes of heavenly blessedness. The oftener the exercise is engaged in, it will, by the divine blessing, become more easy and delightful ; it will greatly enliven and invigorate all the principles of grace in the heart, and impart a tone of holy spirituality to the feelings.
This is the state of mind in which a christian is most disposed to devotional exercises, and in which, it is likely, he will derive the most advantage from them; it is the state of mind in which the influence of the world with its engagements and pursuits is least felt; it is the state of mind in which heaven seems to be nearest, and in which he feels the strongest desire to depart and to inherit the glory which is now but the object of contemplation. How easy would the transition have been to the disciples from the mount of transfiguration to the heavenly state! How easy would it have been for John in the Isle of Patmos, while, in vision, he was bebolding the throne of God, and the multitudes of angels and redeemed men which were standing before it, and listening to the services in which they were engaged ! The more frequently one makes these scenes the subject of contemplation, and the more fully he realizes them, the stronger will be his aspirations after perfect holiness, and the higher his qualifications for the enjoyments of immortality.
ON THE CONSOLATION WHICH THE PROSPECT OF THE
HAPPINESS OF THE FUTURE STATE IS FITTED TO
The inheritance of christians consists of two parts. The one is the glorious possession reserved for them in heaven ; the other consists of the allotments of Providence in this life. These allotments, although they are the result of eternal love and unerring wis. dom, are varied in their nature; and are, in many instances, productive of severe suffering.
The heirs of glory, however, endure many evils in common with other men ; and they can often trace the connexion betwixt their sufferings and their own misconduct. But the sufferings to which I more particularly allude at present, are those in which this connexion cannot be discerned ; those that come directly from the hand of God. Far be it from me, however, to affirm that these are of an arbitrary nature, or that they are inflicted merely for the purpose of giving pain. They are the consequences of sin ; and however great and varied and protracted they may be, they bear no assignable proportion to the amount of suffering which it has merited. This consideration gives a bitterness to them which would not otherwise attend them; and it is fitted to produce, in the minds of all who endure them, feelings of the most painful kind.
We are not warranted, however, to consider all the events which are the cause of pain to the people of God to be of a punitive nature. Many of them are intended to prevent them from falling into sin, and are designed as a means of discipline to train them for the services and enjoyments of the future state. In cases of this nature, though their minds are not racked and tormented by self-accusations, their guilty consciences being set at rest by the blood of Jesus; yet they cannot but feel that such sufferings are present evils. And whatever their nature and tendency may be, they cannot endure them with patience and equanimity, far less can they rejoice in them, without the influence of some counteracting or sustaining principle upon their minds. But as God intends nothing but good in all these dispensations, he has graciously provided the means of con. solation and be sustains them under the troubles of life by the hope of immortality.
Now, although that hope neither neutralizes nor mitigates the evils which they endure, it sheds a cheering radiance over the gloom which envelopes the most painful dispensations, and imparts a buoyancy to the mind which prevents it from sinking in despondency and despair. It yields a firm support to it amid all the uncertainties and apparent contin
gencies of life, and bears them triumphantly along till they obtain possession of the heavenly inheritance.
Its sustaining power, however, is modified in every case by the estimate which they form of its object, the measure of their faith in the testimony which relates to it, and the degree of clearness with which they apprehend it. A single doubt respecting the reality of its existence, a misconception of its nature, or an uncertainty about their title to it, destroys its sustaining influence to a painful extent; and renders it inadequate to produce the salutary effects upon their minds which it would otherwise do. But when the celestial country is vividly seen by the eye of faith ; when its varied glories are minutely contemplated ; and when a foretaste of its life-giving fruits is obtained, hope rises to a well-founded confidence, and enables those who possess it to conclude “ that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed.” It inspires them with a fortitude which nothing can shake, and cheers them on amidst the gloom and darkness of this vale of tears. With such a hope they can welcome whatever events may take place, and contemplate with a holy equanimity all the developments of Providence. Though these developments should be of the most cheerless and portentous nature, they are taught to regard them as the expressions of eternal love, and that they are designed to promote their highest interests both here and here. after.