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Every age and almost every year, produces instances of the exceeding greatness of misery and pain the soul is capable of. The distress of heart in some arises to that degree, that they not only wish they had never been born, but even curse the day of their birth. Nay, so exquisite is their anguilh, that they are brought to be utterly weary of life, and their misery becomes so intense, that they put an end to themselves. They perform that awful act, which is the utmost exertion of their will and power, to extinguish forever that existence, which they can no longer endure.
On the other hand, the felicity of some have become so great that their frail bodies have been incapable of sustaining the extafy. It is wrought up fo high that the body sinks and faints. The joy and rapture of the foul causes it to built its way through the clay tabernacle, and rejoice unincumbered with the droly mass.
What there instances are produced for, is to show the greatness of the pain and pleasure, or happiness and misery, of which our souls are capable. But this is not the state any of these matters arrive at their highest degree of perfection. This is not the case with respect to sin or holiness, so neither with respect to happiness or misery. The present is a state of great imperfection in regard to all the concernments of our fouls. The fin and holiness, and the happiness and misery of the present, are as nothing compared with that future state into which we are passing. Thus the apostle Paul speaks of the felicity of believers in heaven, “ That eye hath not feen, “nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man the “ things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” Some christians have felt as much of the joys of the Holy Ghost as their present condition of mortality could bear, yet all this is as nothing in comparison of the felicity they will experience in the celestial world.
Thus likewise the fcriptures speak of the miseries of the wicked in a future state. “Is there not a strange punishment “ to the workers of iniquity?” That is, there remains a punishment, misery and anguish to the wicked, unknown and unexperienced in this life. The torments of the damned have not entered into the heart of man to feel or conceive. And yet men have felt such mifery that they could endure life no longer, and their existence has become quite insupportable.
These reflections serve to convince us that our capacity of happiness and misery is vastly large; that the degrees of pain and pleasure our fouls are capable of are exceedingly great. For if in the present state of imperfection and weakness our felicity and wretchedness may rise to such a height, how incon. ceivably great must they be in that world where all things will be in a state of perfection.
It is imposible for us either to ascertain or conceive the extenfiveness of the measure of pain or pleasure which fouls experience in the future state. Thus much is evident, that the foul's ca. pacity of happiness or misery is beyond the power of numbers to calculate, and the force of words to express.
These things must set the worth 'and value of the soul very high to one who seriously realises them. They exalt its falva. tion far above all the riches and treasures of the world. But what is the effect produced upon the minds of the most of mankind, when the amazing extent of the capacity of their souls is exhibited before them? When men hear what valt degrees of happiness and misery of which their souls are capable, does it move them ?-does it awaken their serious attention and confi. deration ?--does it cause them to set a high value upon their salvation? Or are they filled with a deep folicitude how to escape the one and obtain the other ? No: quite the reverfe of all this. Notwithstanding it is laid before them by the
firongest evidence and clearest demonstration, that the falvae tion of their souls is incomparably more precious than all the treasures and riches of the world, yet they are incomparably more engaged to acquire the latter than secure the former. They plunge into the world with all their heart and strength, as tho'. it were to last forever and could alone make them happy. How careless, unconcerned, and thoughtless is man with regard to his future state? “The ox knoweth his owner, and the
ass his master's crib ; but Ifrael doth not know, my people “ doth not consider." With regard to the present life mankind in general are very forefighted, anxious and careful. They are greatly folicitous in making provision for times of sickness, and to have a support for the season of old age. But with respect to their souls and how it will fare with them in a future state of existence, there is little or no attention or concern. The most precious interest is neglected, while that which is of inferior worth has immense,pains and care bestowed upon it. The workings of unbelief are either so great that they do not realise the immortality of their souls, or if they grant that they are immortal, it is in so cold and indifferent a manner, that it makes no impression upon them. If at times they have any remonftrances of conscience or misgivings of heart, about the state of their souls, they ordinarily suppress such reflections by promising to consider these things hereafter, and commanding their minds to a more close attention to the world.
« This or their way is their folly, and yet their posterity approve their “ fayings,” and their practice. But whether men will hear or whether they will forbear, and reject the counsel of God against themselves, the fact remains perfectly certain, that the soul and its salvation is incomparably more precious and valuable than all the things of time.
Many are the considerations which might be produced to illustrate and administer conviction of this, but I must not en. ter farther into them at present-And shall close the fubject with one short reflection. It is this :
If men are not convinced of the superior worth of the fal. vation of their fools, it is not for want of light and evidence, but because they will not receive it. “ Light is come into “ the world, but men love darkness rather than light, because “ their deeds are evil.” There is no man, who will allow him. self to consider the nature of his soul, and its relation to eter. nity, and the nature of wealth and riches, fuppofing he could gain all the valt poffeffions of the world, but must be satisfied, that the salvation of his soul is incomparably more precious than the other acquisition. And if persons who live under the gospel are not convinced of this truth, there is no possible Jeason can be given for it, but that they do not chuse conviction. They hate the light and evidence which would discover this truth, and so they will not come to the light. They will not fairly consider and weigh the matter in their own mind, left it should reprove their deeds, and show them the horrid nature of their own condud, and thus oblige them to alter it, or live under the insufferable lashes of concience and terrors of divine wrath. If after we have had sufficient light and evidence to convince us that our souls are more precious than the things of the world, and yet labour and toil more for the fading profits and pleasures of the latter, than for the eternal salvation of the former, our mouths must be forever stopt. We know what would be the consequence of this con. duct from the unerring oracles of God, that if persons would' chuse, seek and pursue the riches of the world beyond the glory of God and the enjoyment of him, they have nothing to expect but everlasting ruin. Thus men who act this part are wilfully their own destroyers. Their final destruction is etire: ly of themselves. They act contrary not only to the commands of heaven, but they violate the dictates and conclufions of their own reason. For they cannot but admit, in case they consider and allow they have immortal fouls, that they are infinitely more precious than the things of the world, and therefore the salvation of them ought to be set higher than any temporal acquisition, and fought and pursued exceedingly beyond it. They know and their judgments declare, where their conduct must lead and land them forever, even in unutterable misery, anguish and horror, . " Where the worm 6 dieth not and the fire is not quenched.”
Let us now be seriously exhorted to attend to the concerns of our souls above every other acquisition. Let us remember how much it cost Christ Jesus to procure the redemption of them. Consider his bloody sweat in the garden, and how he groined and died on the cross in order that pardon and sal. vation might be purchased for your souls. Wherefore, if we now neglect our souls, not only must we suffer the tor. ment of our loss, but all the encreased wrath of Jehovah for despising the blood of his son. Olet us therefore humble ourselves before God, because of our worldly mindedness and carnality. Let us repent of our fins and turn unto God by faith in Jesus Christ. Remember how our blessed Saviour esteemed the riches of this world, how indifferent he was to them, and let us imitate his example. Let it appear that we are christians in reality, by living above the world and laying upour treasures in heaven. “ Put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, " and make no provision for the flesh to fulfil the lufts thereof. « Look not at the things which are seen and temporal, but at " the things which are unseen and eternal.”