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right and faithful subjects shall have nothing to apprehend. They may remain safe and quiet spectators of the threatening scene. For it is not to be a scene of blind confusion ; of universal ruin brought about by undesigning chance. Over the shock of the elements, and the wreck of matter, Eternal Wisdom presides. According to its direction the conflagration advances which is to consume the earth. Amidst every convulsion of the world, God shall continue to be as he was from the beginning, the dwelling-place of his servants to all generations. The world may be lost to them; but the Ruler of the world is ever the same, unchangeably good and just. This is the high tower to which they can fly, and be safe. The righteous Lord loveth righteousness; and, under every period of his government, his countenance beholdeth the upright.
II. Let us contemplate the dissolution of the world as the end of all human glory. This earth has been the theatre of many a great spectacle, and many a high achievement. There, the wise have ruled, the mighty have fought, and conquerors have triumphed. Its surface has been covered with proud and stately cities. Its temples and palaces have raised their heads to the skies. Its kings and potentates, glorying in their magnificence, have erected pyramids, constructed towers, founded monuments, which they imagined were to defy all the assaults of time. Their inward thought was, that their houses were to continue for ever, and their dwelling-places to all generations. Its philosophers have explored the secrets of nature; and flattered themselves, that the fame of their discoveries was to be immortal. Alas! all this was to be no more than a transient show. Not only the fashion of the world, but the world itself, passeth away. The day cometh, when all the glory of this world shall be remembered only as a dream when one awaketh. No longer shall the earth exhibit any of those scenes which now delight our eyes.
The whole beautiful fabric is thrown down, never more to arise. As soon as the destroying angel has sounded the last trumpet, the everlasting mountains fall; the foundations of the world are shaken; the beauties of nature, the decorations of art, the labours of industry, perish in one common flame. The globe itself shall either return into its ancient chaos, without form, and void; or, like a star fallen from the heavens, shall be effaced from the universe, and its place shall know it no
This day of the Lord, it is foretold in the text, will come as a thief in the night ; that is, sudden and unexpected. Mankind, notwithstanding the presages given them, shall continue to the last in their wonted security. Our Saviour tells us, that as in the days of Noah before the flood, they were cating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the flood came, and took them all away, so shall also the coming of the Son of Man be. * — How many projects and designs shall that day suddenly confound? What longcontrived schemes of pleasure shall it overthrow ? What plans of cunning and ambition shall it utterly blast? How miserable they, whom it shall overtake in the midst of dark conspiracies, of criminal deeds, or profligate pleasures? In what strong colours is
* Matthew, xxiv. 38, 39.
their dismay painted, when they are represented, in the book of Revelations, as calling to the hills and mountains to fall on them and cover them? — Such descriptions are apt to be considered as exaggerated. The impression of those awful events is weakened by the great distance of time at which our imagination places them. But have not we had a striking image set before us, in our own age, of the terrours which the day of the Lord shall produce, by those partial ruins of the world, which the visitation of God has brought on countries well known, and not removed very
far from ourselves ?. When, in the midst of peace, opulence, and security, suddenly the earth was felt by the terrified inhabitants to tremble, with violent agitation, below them ; when their houses began to shake over their heads, and to overwhelm them with ruins; the flood, at the same time, to rise from its bed, and to swell around them ; when encompassed, with universal desolation, no friend could aid another; no prospect of escape appeared; no place of refuge remained; how similar were such scenes of destruction to the terrours of the last day? What similar sensations of dread and remorse, and too late repentance, must they have excited among the guilty and profane?
To such formidable convulsions of nature, we, in these happy islands, through the blessing of heaven, are strangers; and strangers to them may we long continue ! But however we may escape partial ruins of the globe, in its general and final ruin we also must be involved. To us must come at last that awful day when the sun shall for the last time arise, to perform his concluding circuit round the world. They how blest, whom that day shall find employed
in religious acts, or virtuous deeds; in the conscientious discharge of the duties of life; in the exercise of due preparation for the conclusion of human things, and for appearing before the great Judge of the world! Let us now,
III. CONTEMPLATE the soul of man, as remaining unhurt in the midst of this general desolation, when the whole animal creation perishes, and the whole frame of nature falls into ruins. What a high idea does this present, of the dignity pertaining to the rational spirit! The world may fall back into chaos; but, superiour to matter and independent of all the changes of material things, the soul continues the
When the heavens pass away with a great noise, and the elements melt with fervent heat, the soul of man, stamped for immortality, retains its state unimpaired; and is capable of flourishing in undecaying youth and vigour. Very different indeed the condition of human spirits is to be, according as their different qualities have marked, and prepared them, for different future mansions. But for futurity they are all destined. Existence, still, is theirs. The capacity of permanent felicity they all possess ; and if they enjoy it not, it is owing to themselves.
Here, then, let us behold what is the true honour and excellence of man. It consists not in his body; which, beautiful or vigorous as it may now seem, is no other than a fabric of dust, quickly to return to dust again. It is not derived from any connection he can form with earthly things; which, as we have seen, are all doomed to perish. It consists in that thinking part which is susceptible of intellectual improvement and moral worth, which was formed
after the image of God; which is capable of perpetual progress in drawing nearer to his nature; and shall partake of the divine eternity when time and the world shall be no more.
This is all that is respectable in man. By this alone he is raised above perishable substances, and allied to those that are celestial and immortal. This part of our nature, then, let us cultivate with care; and, on its improvement, rest our self-estimation. If, on the contrary, suffering ourselves to be wholly immersed in matter, plunged in the dregs of sensuality, we behave as if we were only made for the body and its animal pleasures, how degenerate and base do we become ? Destined to survive this whole material system, sent forth to run the race of immortality and glory, shall we thus abuse our Maker's goodness, degrade our original honour, and sink ourselves into deserved misery? It remains that,
IV. We contemplate the dissolution of the world, as the introduction to a greater and nobler system, in the government of God. We, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.* Temporal things are now to give place to things eternal. To this earthly habitation is to succeed the city of the living God. The earth had completed the purpose for which it was created. It had been employed as a theatre on which the human generations were successively to come forth, and to fulfil their term of trial. As long as the period of trial continued, much obscurity was of tourse to cover the counsels of Providence.
2 Peter, iii. 13.