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knew them in this mortal state, we have from Scripture no assurance or intimation whatever. One thing seems to follow with probability from the nature of the thing, namely, that if the wicked be known to one another in a state of perdition, their knowledge will only serve to aggravate their misery.
What then is the inference from all this? Do we seek, do we covet, earnestly to be restored to the society of those who were once near and dear to us, and who are gone before? It is only by leading godly lives that we can hope to have this wish accomplished. Should we prefer to all delights, to all pleasures in the world, the satisfaction of meeting again, in happiness and peace, those whose presence, whilst they were amongst us, made up the comfort and enjoyment of our lives? It must be, by giving up our sins, by parting with our criminal delights and guilty pursuits, that we can ever expect to attain to this satisfaction. Is there a great difference between the thought of losing those we love for ever; of taking at their deaths, or our own, an eternal farewell, never to see them more; and the reflection that we are about to be separated, for a few years at the longest, to be united with them in a new and better state of mutual existence; is there, I say, a difference to the heart of man between these two things; and does it not call upon us to strive, with redoubled endeavours, that the case may truly turn out so ? The more and more we reflect upon the difference between the consequences of a lewd, unthinking, careless, profane, dishonest life and a life of religion, sobriety, seriousness, good actions, and good principles, the more we shall see the madness and stupidity of the one, and the true solid wisdom of the other. This is one of the distinctions. If we go on in our sins, we are not to expect to awaken to a joyful meeting with our
friends, and relatives, and dear connexions. If we turn away from our sins, and take up religion in earnest, we may. My brethren, religion disarms even death. It disarms it of that which is its bitterness and its sting,—the power of dividing those who are dear to one another. But this blessing, like every blessing which it promises, is only to the just and good, to the penitent and reformed, to those who are touched at the heart with a sense of its importance : who know thoroughly and experimentally, who feel in their inward mind and consciences, that religion is the only course that can end well : that can bring either them or theirs to the presence of God, blessed for evermore; that can cause them, after the toils of life and struggle of death are over, to meet again in a joyful deliverance from the grave; in a new and never ceasing happiness, in the presence and society of one another.
THE GENERAL RESURRECTION.
John, v. 28, 29.
The hour is coming, in the which all that are in the
graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good unto the resurrection of life ; and they that have done evil unto the resurrection of damnation.
These words are so important, that, if Jesus Christ had never delivered any other; if he had come into the world and pronounced only this simple declaration, and proved the truth and certainty of it by the miracles which he wrought; he would have left enough to have guided his followers to everlasting happiness: he would have done more towards making mankind virtuous and happy than all the teachers and all the wisdom that ever appeared upon earth had done before him. We should each and every one of us have owed more to him for this single piece of intelligence than we owe to our parents, our dearest friend, or the best benefactor we have. This text is the poor man's creed. It is his religion : it is imprinted upon his memory and upon his heart: it is what the most simple can understand : it is what, when understood and believed, excels all the knowledge and learning in the universe: it is what we are to carry about with us in our thoughts : daily remember and daily reflect upon : remember not only at
church, not only in our devotions, or in our set meditations; but in our business, our pleasures, in whatever we intend, plan, or execute, whatever we think about, or whatever we set about; remember, that " they that have done good shall come unto the resurrection of life : they that have done evil unto the resurrection of damnation.”
Reflect what great things this short sentence contains. It teaches us, beyond contradiction, that all does not end here: that our happiness or misery is not over at our death: that a new state of things will begin with every one of us, and that in a short time. This point, I say, our Saviour proves beyond contradiction: and how does he prove it? by healing the sick, by restoring sight to the blind, by raising the dead, by various astonishing and incontestable miracles; and, above all, by coming himself to life again after being three days dead and buried, he proved that God Almighty was with him ; that he came from God; that he knew what passed in the other world; that he had God's own authority to say and promise this to mankind. Upon the faith and trust of this promise, we know that we shall rise again : all are equally assured of it, from the highest to the lowest. Wise and learned men thought indeed the same thing before: they concluded it to be so from probable argument and reasonings; but this was not like having it, as
} we have it, from God himself; or, what is just the same thing, from the mouth of a person to whom God gave witness by signs and wonders and mighty deeds. They were far short of our certainty who did study it the deepest. They were but few who could study or comprehend it at all. Blessed be God, we are all informed, we are all, from the most learned to the most ignorant, made sure and certain of it.
Having then this great doctrine secured, that we shall all come again into a new world and a new life, the next great point which every serious mind will turn to, the second grand question to be asked, is, who are to be happy and who will be miserable in that other state? The text satisfies us completely upon this head. You ask, who shall come to the resurrec
. tion of life? The text replies, they that have done good. Observe well, and never forget this answer. It is not the wise, the learned, the great, the honoured, the professor of this or that doctrine, the member of this church, or the maintainer of that article of faith, but he that doeth good; he, of whatever quality or condition, who strives honestly to make his life of service to those about him ; to be useful in his calling, and to his generation; to his family, to his neighbourhood, and, according to his ability, to his country and to mankind; "he that doeth good.” All the rest, without this, goes for nothing, though he understand the things of religion ever so well; or believe ever so rightly; though he cry, Lord, Lord: be he ever so constant and devout in his prayers; or talk ever so much or so well or so earnestly for religion : unless he do good: unless his actions and dealings and behaviour come up to his knowledge and his discourse, correspond with his outward profession and belief, it will avail him nothing; he is not the man to whom Jesus Christ hath promised, in the text, that he shall come to the resurrection of life. The issue of life and death is put upon our conduct and behaviour; that is made the test we are to be tried by.
Again, When we read in Scripture, when we know from positive and undoubted authority, that misery and destruction, ruin, torment, and damnation are reserved for some, it is surely the most natural, the most interesting of all inquiries to know for whom. The text tells us, “ for them that have done evil.”