SERlOUS REFLECTIONS ON TIME AND ETERNITY.
BY JOHN SHOWER.
AND ON THE CONSIDERATION OF OUR LATTER END,
By Sir. MATTHEW HALE, KNT.
There are certain truths, which lie remote from all direct
and immediate observation - and which require more than one step on the part of
the human mind ere they are arrived at - which can only, in fact, he reached by
a reasoning process, that consists of many steps; and for the describing of
which, the habit of sustained attention, and the talent of sound and legitimate
inference and the power of combining principles which are known, and thence
eliciting a truth or a doctrine that was unknown, must all he summoned to the
work, and be put into strenuous and continued exercise for many days, or often
for months together, ere the toils of the devoted inquirer be rewarded by the
discovry of that he is in quest of. There is much, for example both of
mathematical and political science, which is incontrovertibly true, but which
instead of being taken up at one act by the understanding, as if it lay on the
very surface of contemplation, can only be grasped into the possession of the
mind, by being travelled to through a long intermediure of many transitions and
many arguments-and they are oniy a gifted few who can bear the fatigues of such
a journey, and to whom the labours of the midnight oil afford a congenial and
much-loved employment, and who have had their intellectual powers disciplined
to the march of a logical or lengthened investigation. of the Smith of the one
science, and the Newton of the other, afford very striking illustrations of
this kind of mental superiority over the rest of the species - and in virtue of
which they were enabled to discover what before to the whole of mankind was
utterly unknown; and in virtue of which their followers are enabled to see what
the majority of mankind do not see.
It is only seen in fact from a summit of demonstration - and this is only attained by a series of ascending movements- and the few who have made their way to the temple which stands upon such an eminence as this, find inscribed upon it the temple of philosophy. Now, what we maintain is, that this is altogether distinct from the temple of wisdom. its successful worshippers are men of reach and men of acquirement, and men who, from the elevation they have won, and on which they have posted themselves, can command a farther prospect over some walk, or some domain of the great intellectual territory, than their fellows around them. And yet they are not on this account men of wisdom, nor have we arrived at the true meaning and application of this epithet, if we either think that to be wise we must be philosophers, or that, if philosophers, we are therefore wise.
There are certain other truths, difficult of access, which are distinct, and distinguishable we think from those that we have just now adverted to - not such as are gained by a continuous effort along a line of investigation - not such as come in view upon the eye of the beholder, after he has scaled one of the altitudes of science - not such as lie remote, by being placed at a distance, but such rather as lie hidden from common minds, because deeply enveloped under the surface of common observation. To come at these, is not to plod and to persevere from one acquisition to another, as in the former instances. It is done by a process perhaps, too, in which all the elements of ratiocination are concerned, but a process so rapid, as to be felt even by the owner of the mind through which it passes, like an act of momentary intuition. Such is the quickness of his penetrating eye, that what to others is a thick and impalpable veil, hides not from him the truth or the principle which lurks beneath it - and with one glance of perception, can he discern many of the secret things which lie under the broad and ostensible face of human affairs - and this faculty of his though certainly sharpened by cultivation, and cradled up to its present maturity among the varieties of experience and of life, is not of slow operation like the former, but is sudden in all its exercises, and quite immediate in all the information which it fetches to its owner.
One of its main offices is to detect what is latent, and to ordinary minds, inaccessible in the character of man. This it does not by any tardy movement of the understanding, but by something like the tact of an instantaneous discernment, by the look of an instinctive sagacity, directed towards any exhibition either in the countenance or in the conduct of another. It is this faculty which gives the eye of a lynx to the satirist; and which endues, with all his readiness and address, the wily ambassador, who, himself unseen, can cast a piercing intelligence through all the windings and intrigues of a cabinet; and which dexterously guides its possessors way among the politics of a city corporation; and which even achieves, as wondrous triumphs as any of subtlety and skill among the severest collisions, or the low jockeyship of a market. Jt is far more diffused than science and scholarship are through the various ranks of society. You will meet with it in the homeliest walks of life - nay, sometimes, in all its perfection, under the guise, and in the attitude, of a country simpleton. It is not confined to the chicanery of courts. For the play of as deep and as dexterous artifice may be set agoing in the negotiations of private interest, as has ever been recorded in the annals of diplomacy. And whether it be swindling without the law, or swindling within the law, may there be the same over-reach of one shrewder understanding over the blind and unsuspecting confidence of another, in the contests of ordinary trade, as in the contests of politics.
The man who is thus gifted, sees deeper than his fellows. He can read the vanity, or the weakness, or the delicacy which are in anothers heart, and he can practise accordingly. It is true, that he may be thus wise as a serpent, and yet harmless as a dove. But the mere wisdom of the serpent is not true wisdom, in the soundest acceptation of the term. The epithet wise, according to its largest and its soundest acceptation, is neither exemplified by him, who, by dint of meditation, sees farthest into the secrets of philosophy, or who, by dint of shrewd and oft-repeated observation, sees deepest into the mysteries of our nature - nor have we yet reached the conception of a truly wise man, if we think, that to be wise we must be political, or, that if political, we are therefore wise.
The consideration of our latter end, which forms the principal topic of the following Volume, is that which the Scripture affirms to be true wisdom. Oh that they were wise, that they understood this, that they considered their latter end. But the truth of our mortality, by the considering of which aright we are wise, belongs neither to the former, nor to the latter classification. We do not need to travel far in quest of its discovery. Neither do we need to dive among the recesses of a profound observation, that we may be able to fetch it up, and to appropriate it. It is a truth which, on the very highway of ordinary life, forces itself on the recognition of every man. That world, through which we are all journeying, abounds in the sign-posts of mortality; and many is the passing funeral which obtrudes this lesson upon our eyes; and many are the notes of that funeral bell which tolls it upon our hearing; and well may the old, when they think of a former generation, levelled and taken off by the hand of death, learn how sure it is, that the living and busy society around them will at length be swept away; - and even to the young, and those the likeliest of us all, does death hang out its memorials, and gives them to know that it wields an indiscriminating arm;- and even from those whom it spares the longest, and comes to the last, may we learn how short a process of arithmetic it is which conducts every one of us to our latter end, - and thus, through all the possible avenues of sense, and experience, and feeling, do such intimations multiply upon us, and these so plain and so powerful, and ever and anon recurring with such pathos and in such frequency, that, but to those who are sunk in idiotism, is it a lesson read and recognised of all men.
Nor is there a living man who does not know, that the march of our actual generation is but one vast progressive movement to the grave. It is not the acquirement of new truths, but the right use and consideration of old ones, which constitutes wisdom. It is not the discovery of what was before unknown, which signalizes the wise man above his fellows. It is the right and the rational application of what they know as well as he, but which they do not reflect upon, and do not proceed upon as he. It is not the man who out-peers his acquaintances in intellectual wealth, neither is it the man who outdoes them in homebred sagacity it is neither the one nor the other, who, in the best, and most significant sense of the term, is the man of wisdom. It is he, who acts upon the sureness of that which is sure. It is he, who proceeds upon the reality of that which is real. It is he, who feels greatness of desire after that which is great, and smallness of desire after that which is small, and shapes his doings to the actual dimensions of every object which is presented to his understanding. And neither is it necessary that, in respect of understanding, he should have a capacity for more than truths which are familiar to all, and are acknowledged of all. He has not to go in quest of strange or distant novelties, but only to trace to its right purpose that which is near to him, and within reach of every man. In a word, he has not to learn that which is known only to a few, he has only to consider that which is known to all. 0 that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end!"He has not to be taught the number of his days, but taught so to number them, as to apply his heart unto wisdom.
He is not in the soundest physical condition, who lives on the high-wrought delicacies of an artificial and expensive preparation; but he, the organs of whose bodily constitution are best suited to the bread and the water, and the universal aliments which nature has provided for the healthful sustenance of her children. And he is neither in the best spiritual, nor even in the best intellectual condition, the faculties of whose soul are ever on the stretch after lofty and recondite doctrine, or its appetitefor knowledge pre-occupied with various and exquisite speculation - but he, who thrives on the daily nourishment of such truth as is familiar to all - he, whose clear and vigorous eye admits most copiously of that light, which is poured around the orbit, he, the food of whose understanding is that common food which is most abundant, and would also be most salutary, but for the common disease that overspreads the families of our species - he who, with no taste, and no capacity for what is remote or ingenious, rightly comprehends the truth that is at hand, and goes not beyond the simple elements of being in any of his mental exercises, but who, if right in these, has reached a wisdom which philosophy cannot reach, and who, if sound in his practical estimate of what is due to Time, and what is due to Eternity, is a man of nobler aims, and far more solid and exalted wisdom, than science can induce upon any of its votaries. He lives not upon the niceties, but upon the staple of spiritual fare, and his spiritual frame is thereby upheld in strength and in prosperity; and in the plain certainties of the coming death, and the coming judgment, does he walk in a way more truly elevated, than that which is trodden by any son of literary ambition: arid hence the impress of dignity and wisdoni which we have seen to sit on the aspect of him, who, the father of a cottage family, has no respite from toil but Sabbath, and no reading but his much-read Bible, and that authorship, of old and humble piety, which lies in little room upon his shelves.
To learn discriminatively and justly what wisdom is, you have just to place the most brilliant and accomplished philosopher by the side of this venerable sage of Christianity. The one knows much, but his is a knowledge which terminates in itself. The other knows little, but his is a knowledge which is turned to the purpose of his guidance here, and of his provision for eternity hereafter. Wisdom is not bare knowledge. It is knowledge directed to its best and fittest, and most productive application. Thus it is, that there may be much knowledge without wisdom, and there may be much wisdom with little knowledge. It is not he who knows most, who is most wise, but he, who uses aright that which is known and familiar to all men. For, let it be observed, that it is with spiritual as with natural food. The most useful ingredients of it are the most abundant. Men may refuse to partake of them, and starve and die, and thus become, what the majority of our species actually are - dead in trespasses and sins. To bring a man alive again from the apparent death of nature, we never think of wooing back the departed senses by the offer of luxuries. But we admit a supply of air, and try if he can breathe in this universal element; and make use of cold water, which is to be had in every dwellingplace; and ply his taste with some simple preparation; and could we restore him to the common enjoyment of these very commonest articles, we would he satisfied.
And so it is in the case of spiritual torpor. To call it back to sensibility, we would never think of elaborate demonstration. But we would ring into our patients ear the message of death, which every body knows, but few know with application. We would try to awaken his inner man, by the tidings of its immortality, which all profess to have faith in, while scarcely any human being lives under the power of it. We would sound the trump of alarm, and loudly speak of an angry God and a coming vengeance, notes as familiar to his hearing as is that of the wind of heaven which blows over him, while, in their terror and in their urgency, they are as unfelt by the soul, as if its ears of communication with a human voice were altogether closed. We would deat forth upon him the simplicities of the gospel and tell of sin and of the Sacrifice - intimations which may be as readily taken up by the peasant as by the philosopher - but which, until roused from their carnal lethargy, are alike unheeded by them both. To recall them from such a paralysis as this, we would not ply them with that which is severe and elaborate, but would, if possible, quicken and revive them by that which is elementary. And not he who is led on by argument to that which is, remote, but he who receives the touch of a quickening influence from that, the certainty of which is obvious to all, while the sense of it is nearly unfelt by all - he it is who hath attained the only true understanding - he it is who is wise unto salvation.
We cannot but perceive, how, while the doctrines of our faith are plain, in opposition to what is recondite, not requiring, like the difficulties of science, a prolonged and strenuous investigation- yet still, plain as they are, they need the influence of the Spirit for the true understanding of them, just as a dead body needs the touch of some miraculous personage, ere it can breathe the all encompassing atmosphere, or use the universal elements, or be sustained by the common bounties of nature. And so of the soul. It is not by conducting it through any lengthened, or logical demonstration of the schools, that we restore it to that intelligence, the possession ofwhich assures the possessor of life everlasting. It is by visiting it with the manifestation of certain great and impending, but withal simple realities. The wisdom which is thus gotten, is altogether distinct from the wisdom of philosophy hidden in fact from many such wise, and many such prudent, and revealed unto babes. Let us just look to the practical habit of nature, and see that, in the face of the clearest and plainest arithmetic, it gives a superiority to the present over the future world, and then may we acknowledge, that if it be needful to heal the diseased eyes of the blind, ere they can see of the common light, or to heal the diseased lungs of the consumptive,ere they can breathe aright of the common air, or to heal the diseased constitution of the sickly, ere they can turn into ailment the common food of all men, - so is it equally needful that a physicians hand be laid upon our diseased spirits, ere they be nourished by truths so palpable, as that eternity is greater than time, and the enjoyment of God in heaven, greater than that of all those earthly blessings which he causes to descend on our fleeting pilgrimage. We know not on whom it is, that the burden of this sore disease still lies, in all its native aggravation, or from whom it has been taken away. We can only address our admonitions to the reader at a venture. It is like the shooting of an arrow among a multitude, when who knows what individual will be struck by it? It is under the declaration of the truth, that a child of darkness becomes a child and a disciple of light.
But even the same truth which awakens the former, is the very truth which needs to be repeated, again and again, in the hearing of the latter, to keep him awake. The pure mind must be stirred up in the way of remembrance. And it is not enough that truth be received at the first; in the language of the Bible, it must also be considered. The food which is taken in is of no use, unless, by a digestive process, it be turned into aliment. Truth is the food of the soul. We receive it by faith. But if we keep it not in memory, we, in the words of the apostle, have believed in vain. The shortness of life, and the certainty of its approaching extinction, may come upon the spirit in a powerful, but momentary visitation. This gleam of light must be brightened, and sustained, and perpetuated. It must he kept alive amid the shock of many rude and adverse elements. It must shine as a lamp upon all our paths. The converse of this world's companies should not darken it in the heat and the hurry of our daily business should not stifle it. That sorrow which worketh death, should not swallow it up into the oblivion of our immortality, nor should the still more dangerous gale of prosperity blow this pure and sacred flame into utter annihilation. It is not enough that we acknowledge the truth at stated times; we must give earnest heed to it, lest at any time we should let it slip. It is not enough that we should know our latter end - nor has our understanding of this been advanced into true wisdom, till it be our care and our habit to consider our latter end.
The practical habit of our souls ought to be a habit of anticipation, and of anticipation reaching even unto death, and to the immortality which lies beyond it. A realizing sense of what that is, which a coming futurity is to bring with speed, and perhaps with suddenness, to our doors, would change the habit and posture of the soul altogether. Could we only figure to our imaginations the ebbing, and the quivering, and the agony of death, and then charge ourselves with the certainty that death is coming, could we be ever looking onwards to the day when the last trumpet shall call us from our graves to the judgment-seat, and give a settled home in our bosoms to the truth of this awful revelation, that judgment is coming, could we carry our frequent and daily thoughts to the margin of eternity, and, after contrasting the delight and the dreariness of its two immeasurable regions, with the interests of that short-lived day which separates the morning from the evening of our existence in the world, consider how surely, on the rapid wing of succession, eternity is coming, - and simile as these ponderings are, let them just enter with the power which they ought, and in the new complexion which they cast on all that is intermediate between us and eternity, and they will both give us other minds, and make other men of us. These truths are plain enough for the peasant - but there is in them a challenging authority, which reaches even unto the prince. They are fit for the homeliest understandings.
Yet homely as they are, may they be offered to men of all ranks, and all classes in society, and they do look hard upon the pursuits of our existing generation. With so mighty an instrument of demonstration, as the calculus of those months that will soon pass away, and of those years that are so easily summed up, do we bring the lesson of our mortality to bear upon them. And be they the children of wealth, resting their security on that corruptible foundation, of which gold and silver are the materials, - or be they children of poverty, who think that they have lost their all, because, without a portion in time, they have cast eternity, as a thing of worthlessness, away from then, - or, in a word, be their condition what it may, let them be of that innumerable multitude who use the world not as a road, but as a residence, - we tell them that they are carnally-minded, and if not arrested on the way, they are fast posting to that death which is the doom of all who are so. Awaken, awaken, from these manifold delusions by which nature is encompassed ! - and seek to be spiritually-minded, that you may have life and peace.
So closely allied is the consideration of our latter end with the very essence of wisdom, that we know not a likelier expedient for shutting us up, and that immediately, unto Christ - unto Him, who is called the wisdom of God as well as the power of God - unto Him, in comparison of the excellency of whose knowledge all was but loss, in the estimation of the apostle ; insomuch, that he determined to know nothing save Jesus Christ and Him crucified. What is it that makes us tarry in the great work of seeking a secure righteousness before God? It is because we feel secure enough in the meantime with the possession of health, and the enjoyment of a warm and well-sheltered home, and the engrossments of business, and the delights of a gay, and pleasing, and varied companionship. These, mixed up with a tolerable sense of our own decencies, and our own duties, serve altogether to make us easy in this evil world, and to keep off from our imaginations all that can give dread or disturbance in the thought of another world.
The truth is, that in these circumstances, and with these feelings, the question, Wherewithal shall I appear before God?" is never seriously entertained. It does not come upon the mind with the urgency of a matter in hand, - and, in reference to the undoubted fact, that the most earthly men are also the most inimical to that doctrine which affirms the ground of our evangelical acceptance before God, we believe the secret but substantial explanation of the whole matter to be, that the soul which keeps a firm hold upon time, is careless and thoughtless about the goodness of its foundation for eternity. He likes this world best, and if he make good a portion here, he will not trouble himself with any nice or scrupulous examination of what that is, which makes the best title-deed for an inheritance hereafter. And this will explain a fact which we think must be familiar to many - the very summary process upon which a man of the world comes to his easy and agreeable conclusion on the question of his eternity - the very comfortable balance which he strikes between his good points and his bad ones- so as to set aside all his sins from the final result of this computation, and bring into view nothing but his humanities and his virtues, on which to rear a confidence before God. It is not by fully tracing, but, in the language of parliament, by blinking the question, that he comes to a deliverance which is satisfying enough to his mind about the world at a distance, amid so much to satisfy him, in the visible and surrounding world with which he has presently to do. It makes all the difference, between the earnestness of our preparation to meet the creditor, who threatens instant diligence upon our person, and the creditor whose application for payment we can, by an act of the fancy, put off, and postpone to an indefinite distance away from us.
And next time you see a thriving, prosperous, good-humoured man of the world evince his hatred of the doctrine of faith, and of all that is said about acceptance in Christ, and a right basis of justification before the eye of the Lawgiver - before you admit the soundness of his notions about a safe and sufficient passport to eternity - consider well whether eternity he at all a matter of concern with him - and whether it is not the entertainment of sense which gives him all his delight, and the business of sense which gives him all his occupation.
Now, conceive the two elements of eternity and time to be so revealed to his soul, as to stand in their just and naked proportion before him. Conceive, that the one is seen advancing in nearness and magnitude towards him, and the other as fast flitting into evanescence away. Conceive the scales so to fall from his eyes, that, through all the delusions which the god of this world spreads over the surface of what is present and visible, he beholds the impressive mockery which death stamps upon every enjoyment that is on this side of it; and feels, that if he fall short of the enjoyment which is on the other side of it, he is undone. Let all this be only mixed up with a right sense of sin and of the Saviour - and not one moment will intervene, ere, under the curse and consciousness of the one, he seeks for deliverance from the other. Let him thus be made to hear the footsteps of the last messenger- and he will feel all the urgency of a present claim and of a present creditor at his door; and he will be driven to the necessity of a present settlement, and he will not be so easily set at rest about the footing upon which he stands. His search for securities, will be the search of a man in earnest; and a real practical earnestness is all that we require assured, as we are, that the man who is truly seeking for a foundation, will not be satisfied till he finds a solid one; and that out of the frail materials of human virtue no such foundation can be formed; and that an obedience, rendered without heart, and mixed up with all the infirmities both of forgetfulness and pollution, will never quiet the conscience of him who has at all been visited by a realizing sense of these things.
Thus it is, that to consider our latter end is to tread on one of the likeliest pathways to the Saviour. Nor do we know a more effectual way of being prompted forward to that place of refuge - where we shall find a blood to wash away our guilt, and a righteousness that can never fail us. So that, could we only demonstrate with power, how short-lived the period, and how tottering the basis of all earthly enjoyments, we should not despair of soon finding the alarmed sinner within his secure resting-place, on that foundation which God hath laid in Zion.
There is often, in the pencilled descriptions of the moralist, a kind of poetical and high-wrought imagery thrown around the chamber of death; and that, whether it be the terrors of guilt, or the triumphs of conscious virtue, which are conceived to mark this closing scene of our history in the world. It is well to know what the plain and experimental truth is, upon the subject. In the case of a worldly and alienated life, the remorse is not nearly so pungent, the apprehensions not nearly so vivid and terrifying, the impression of future and eternal realities not nearly so overpowering, as we are apt to fancy upon such an occasion. The truth is, that as it was throughout the whole of his living, so it is generally in dying. He is still engrossed with present and sensible things; and there is positively nothing in the mere approach of dissolution that can raise up the ascendancy of faith, or render him less the slave of sight, and of the body, than he was before. There is the present pain, there is the present thirst, there is the present breathlessness; and if, amid the tumults of his earthly fabric giving way, and the last irregular movements of its deranged mechanism fast drawing to their cessation, he send for the minister to soothe him by his prayers, even he forms but one of the present varieties. There is no actual going forth of the patient's mind towards the things which are above. The faith which he has so long shut out, does not now force its entrance into a bosom, habituated to the reception of no other influences, than what the world, and the things of the world, have so long exercised over him. We may see torpor upon such an occasion, and call it serenity. We may witness an uncomplaining silence, and call it resignation. We may never hear one note of alarm to drop from the lips of the dying sufferer; and therefore say that he met with Christian fortitude his end. But all these may meet upon a death-bed; and yet, the positive confidence of looking forward to heaven as a home, a positive rejoicing in the hope of the glory of God, a believing, and a knowing, that when the earthly house of this tabernacle is dissolved, they shall have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens, may never enter his bosom.
There may be the peacefulness of insensibility, even while the life of him who has been a stranger to the faith of the gospel is waning to its extinction - but a peace mixed up with the elevation of such prospects as these, is never felt, apart from the thought of Christ as the Lord our righteousness. It is altogether a romance to talk of such anticipations of triumph, to him who looks back upon his own obedience, and then looks forward to his rightful and his challenged reward. If we want our dying hour to have the radiance of heavens gate thrown over it - if we want, amid the failure of expiring nature, to have some firm footing, on which we might strongly and securely rest; there is positively none other, but that to which the consideration of our latter end should now be urging us forward - and, therefore, should we call upon ourselves now to take up with Christ as our foundation, and to associate all our confidence in God, with the obedience which he has wrought, with the ransom which he has rendered.
We cannot better enforce these solemn considerations on the minds of our readers, with the view of shutting them up to the faith that is in Christ, than by referring them to SHOWERS "Serious Reflections on Time and Eternity," and Sir MATTHEW HALE "On the consideration of our Latter End." In SHOWERS excellent Treatise, they will find the serious reflections of a mind, which, by the habit of solemn consideration, and the exercise of a vigorous faith, habitually felt the power and the reality of those important truths, respecting which mankind in general maintain an obstinate, and almost incurable heedlessness., There is scarcely any form of words, or any mode of computation, or any point of contrast, which, he has not employed, to give the reader a vivid, and substantive impression of the littleness of Time, and the greatness of Eternity. The truths on which he insists, are truths of the plainest and most elementary kind; but thoroughly aware that the practical consideration of them constitutes the essence of true wisdom, he endeavours, by the most forcible arguments, and the most touching appeals, and the most persuasive earnestness, to arrest mankind in their career of thoughtlessness and unconcern, and to turn their resolute and sustained attention to the consideration of their latter end, and so to number their days, that they may apply their hearts to that highest of all wisdom a preparation for the coming eternity; and with the real and tender solicitude of men in earnest, lay to heart those things which pertain to their everlasting peace, ere time be hid from their eyes.
The Consideration of our Latter End, and the other kindred pieces of Sir MATTHEW HALE, are not only marked by the same solemn earnestness, but possess all that graphic power of thought, and depth of experimental feeling, which characterize the writings of this extraordinary man. The character and writings of this great and good man have already been adverted to in a former Essay in this series of Select Christian Authors, which precludes the necessity of our entering into any farther exposition of them. But we cannot help observing, that if Sir MATTHEW HALE, whose genius and learning rendered him one of the most distinguished ornaments of his age, and whose character and wisdom still associate him in England's best remembrances, with the noblest of her worthies, counted it a wisdom superior to all human learning, to consider his latter end- and if, amidst the numerous and important avocations of that high official station which he occupied, rendered still more arduous and difficult, by the anarchy and confusion of that revolutionary period in which he lived, this good man was not unmindful to address those monitory lessons to his countrymen, which we now present anew, as salutary admonitions to the present generation, - then have we a testimony to the worth and surpassing excellence of this wisdom, above all the acquisitions of science and philosophy, which cannot be disregarded, without incurring the imputation of folly.
Science and human learning we hold in high estimation, and let them be diffused throughout every corner of our land; but what we affirm is, that they do not meet the necessities of man's moral constitution. The man of science may be rich in all these acquisitions, and yet be destitute of that knowledge which forms a right preparation for the duties of time, or a sound preparation for the glories of eternity, while the humble peasant, whose mind has never been illumined with science, may be illustrious in wisdom of a far higher order, and, by turning the consideration of his latter end to its right and practical use, may have attained to that knowledge in which the apostle determined alone to glory, the knowledge of Jesus Christ and him crucified. It is the great design of such a consideration, to lead us to that gospel which is freely offered to all. But though the gospel be offered freely, it only becomes ours by our receiving it freely; and seldom is it so received by him who, after being laid on the bed of his last sickness, has still a Saviour to Seek, instead of a Saviour to enjoy. The evil heart of unbelief, which he has cherished through life, cleaves to him, and keeps its hold till the last hour of it; and, therefore, never does the mind entertain a delusion more ruinous, never is eternity placed on a more desperate stake, than by those who put away from them now the offers of salvation, and think that then they shall have it for the taking. It is the part, then, of all to look forthwith and earnestly to the Saviour - to contemplate him in his revealed offices - to make a real and intelligent work of closing with him - to receive him as their atonement - to render allegiance to him as their Lord and their Proprietor - and submit themselves unto Him, that he might rule in them by his Spirit, and over them by his Law. Whether they be the unconverted, who have yet to lay hold of Christ, or the already converted, whose business it is to keep that hold - we know not how the consideration of their latter end can be turned more substantially to the purposes of wisdom and of true understanding, than by leading them supremely to prize, and immediately to acquire, that knowledge of Jesus Christ our Lord, which is life everlasting.
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