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bering, that no one wilfully thinks dispara gingly of thee and thy perfections ; that we are equally frail and liable to mistakes ourselves, and are no judges over others in these matters, who are accountable to thee only, and not to us ; that we may always regard, and love, and do good to each other, as brethren, and as children of the same family, one common earthly parent, and equally beloved and regarded by thee our heavenly Father; depending together on thy favour and goodness to carry us safe through this our mortal pilgrimage and day of trial, and alike supported by the hope which thou hast given us by our Lord Jesus Christ, of mingling together and dwelling for ever in those future scenes which thou hast reserved for thy faithful servants.
Fit and prepare us, O Lord! more and more for that blessed place and society, by the most enlarged affections, and goodwill, and endeavours for the happiness of others, and by the practice of all virtue; that we may be continually formed to a nearer resemblance of thee, and at last be for ever united to thee, the God of all perfection and goodness, and go on improving in virtue and happiness for
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ever; according to thine unmerited kindness and benignity to uš, which thou hast revealed by our Lord Jesus Christ.
Now unto tbee, O Father, &c.
June 29, 1788.
1 THESSALONIANS iv. 13.
But I would not have you to be ignorant, bre
thren, concerning them that are asleep.
It has been a frequent complaint, that, whilst mankind have died and disappeared in succession one after another for so many ages, no traveller ever returned from the dusky regions of the dead to tell what passed, or how it fared with them.
But these persons did not consider, that if any one had returned and been brought to live again here, he could have given us no information of any thing. For, alas ! all is utter silence, darkness, and insensibility, in those mansions to which death consigns us.
Philosophers have, indeed, in their speculations, distinguished man into two separate parts, soul or spirit, and body, and have maintained that the thinking part is separable
from the other, and independent of it, so that it continues to live when the body dies.
But experience vouches for nothing of the kind. The whole man appears to die and become extinguished all at once. All the stories of ghosts and apparitions, in all ages, are the mere fictions of wild and disordered imaginations, or of religious craft.
And though the sacred writers use the popular language of soul and body as the two component parts of man, they give no countenance to their separation at death, and the soul living without the body.
There would be no meaning to be conveyed by words, if, when it is said, for instance, (Gen. v. 5.) that Adam died, we are to understand that he continued to live, and live in his better and nobler part; or, when men are described as buried and asleep with their fathers, we are to believe that they and their fathers were, nevertheless,
nevertheless, at the same time alive without their bodies.
The scriptures declare the contrary, even of good men, in numberless instances. To name only one or two; (Is. xxxviii. 18.) “ The grave cannot praise thee: death cannot celebrate thee: they that go down into the pit cannot hope for
(Ps. vi. 5.) “In death there is no remembrance of thee.” (cxv. 17.) “ The dead praise not thee, O Lord, neither those that go down into silence.” (Eccl. ix. 5.) “ The dead know not any thing.”
Our blessed Saviour in his mild way, and in agreement with the language of the
prophets before him, speaks of death as a sleep, out of which mankind were to be awaked at the resurrection; when they that were in their graves should hear his voice and come forth. It is the same language which his apostle here and elsewhere uses, styling the dead, persons asleep. But in sleep there is no sense of any thing.
We can, then, as no traveller has ever returned, only know by dint of information from the gracious Power that made us, and from those extraordinarily taught and commissioned by him, the ancient prophets, and Christ, and his apostles, what is our condition at death, and what is the state we are to enter upon immediately after the sleep of death is over.
And our apostle, in the passage beginning with the words prefixed to my discourse, reveals the knowledge of many things concerning man's future existence, which Nature's