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Eternity of God. - GREENWOOD.
WE receive such repeated intimations of decay in the world through which we are passing, — decline, and change, and loss, follow decline, and change, and loss, in such rapid succession, that we can almost catch the sound of universal wasting, and hear the work of desolation going on busily around us. "The mountain falling cometh to naught, and the rock is removed out of his place. The waters wear the stones, the things which grow out of the dust of the earth are washed away, and the hope of man is destroyed." Conscious of our own instability, we look about for something to rest on, but we look in vain. The heavens and the earth had a beginning, and they will have an end. The face of the world is changing, daily and hourly. All animated things grow old and die. The rocks crumble, the trees fall, the leaves fade, and the grass withers. The clouds are flying and the waters are flowing away from us.
The firmest works of man, too, are gradually giving way; the ivy clings to the mouldering tower, the brier hangs out from the shattered window, and the wall-flower springs from the disjointed stones. The founders of these perishable works have shared the same fate, long ago. If we look back to the days of our ancestors, to the men as well as the dwellings of former times, they become immediately associated in our imaginations, and only make the feeling of instability stronger and deeper than before. In the spacious domes, which once held our fathers, the serpent hisses and the wild bird screams. The halls, which once were crowded with all that taste and science and labor could procure, which resounded with melody and were lighted up with beauty, are buried by their own ruins, mocked by their own desolation. The voice of merriment and of wailing, the steps of the busy and the idle, have ceased in the deserted courts; and the weeds choke the
entrances, and the long grass waves upon the hearth-stone. The works of art, the forming hand, the tombs, the very ashes they contained, are all gone.
While we thus walk among the ruins of the past, a sad feeling of insecurity comes over us; and that feeling is by no means diminished when we arrive at home. If we turn to our friends, we can hardly speak to them before they bid us farewell. We see them for a few moments, and in a few moments more their countenances are changed, and they are sent away. It matters not how near and dear they are. The ties, which bind us together, are never too close to be parted, or too strong to be broken. Tears were never known to move the king of terrors; neither is it enough that we are compelled to surrender one, or two, or many, of those we love; for, though the price is so great, we buy no favor with it, and our hold on those who remain is as slight as ever. The shadows all elude our grasp, and follow one another down the valley. We gain no confidence, then, no feeling of security, by turning to our contemporaries and kindred. We know that the forms, which are breathing around us, are as shortlived and fleeting as those were which have been dust for centuries. The sensation of vanity, uncertainty and ruin, is equally strong, whether we muse on what has long been prostrate, or gaze on what is falling now, or will fall so soon.
If everything which comes under our notice has endured for so short a time, and in so short a time will be no more, we cannot say that we receive the least assurance by thinking on ourselves. When they, on whose fate we have been meditating, were engaged in the active scenes of life, as full of health and hope as we are now, what were we? We had no knowledge, no consciousness, no being; there was not a single thing in the wide universe which knew us. And, after the same interval shall have elapsed which now divides their days from ours, what shall we be? What they are now. When a few more friends have left, a few more hopes deceived,
and a few more changes mocked us, "we shall be brought to the grave, and shall remain in the tomb; the clods of the valley shall be sweet unto us, and every man shall follow us, as there are innumerable before us." All power will have forsaken the strongest, and the loftiest will be laid low, and every eye will be closed, and every voice hushed, and every heart will have ceased its beating. And when we have gone ourselves, even our memories will not stay behind us long. A few of the near and dear will bear our likeness in their bosoms, till they too have arrived at the end of their journey, and entered the dark dwelling of unconsciousness. In the thoughts of others we shall live only till the last sound of the bell, which informs them of our departure, has ceased to vibrate in their ears. A stone, perhaps, may tell some wanderer where we lie, when we came here, and when we went away; but even that will soon refuse to bear us record: "Time's effacing fingers" will be busy on its surface, and at length will wear it smooth; and then the stone itself will sink, or crumble, and the wanderer of another age will pass, without a single call upon his sympathy, over our unheeded graves.
Same subject, concluaed.
Is there nothing to counteract the sinking of the heart which must be the effect of observations like these? Is there no substance among all these shadows? If all, who live and breathe around us, are the creatures of yesterday, and destined to see destruction to-morrow; if the same condition is our own, and the same sentence is written against us; if the solid forms of inanimate nature and laborious art are fading and falling; if we look in vain for durability to the very roots of
where shall we turn, and on what can we rely? Can no support be offered? can no source of confidence be named?
O, yes! there is one Being to whom we can look with a perfect conviction of finding that security which nothing about us can give, and which nothing about us can take away. To this Being we can lift up our souls, and on him we may rest them, exclaiming, in the language of the monarch of Israel, "Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting thou art God.” "Of old hast thou laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of thy hands. They shall perish, but thou shalt endure; yea, all of them shall wax old like a garment, as a vesture shalt thou change them, and they shall be changed; but thou art the same, and thy years shall have no end.”
The eternity of God is a subject of contemplation, which, at the same time that it overwhelms us with astonishment and awe, affords us an immovable ground of confidence in the midst of a changing world. All things which surround us, all these dying, mouldering inhabitants of time, must have had a Creator, for the plain reason that they could not have created themselves. And their Creator must have existed from all eternity, for the plain reason that the first cause must necessarily be uncaused. As we cannot suppose a beginning without a cause of existence, that which is the cause of all existence must be self-existent, and could have had no beginning. And, as it had no beginning, so also, as it is beyond the reach of all influence and control, as it is independent and almighty, it will have no end.
Here, then, is a support which will never fail; here is a foundation which can never be moved — the everlasting Creator of countless worlds, "the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity." What a sublime conception! He inhabits eternity, occupies this inconceivable duration, pervades and
fills throughout this boundless dwelling. Ages on ages before even the dust of which we are formed was created, He had existed in infinite majesty; and ages on ages will roll away after we have all returned to the dust whence we were taken, and still He will exist in infinite majesty, living in the eternity of his own nature, reigning in the plenitude of his own omnipotence, forever sending forth the word which forms, supports and governs all things, commanding new-created light to shine on new-created worlds, and raising up new-created generations to inhabit them.
The contemplation of this glorious attribute of God is fitted. to excite in our minds the most animating and consoling reflections. Standing, as we are, amid the ruins of time and the wrecks of mortality, where everything about us is created and dependent, proceeding from nothing, and hastening to destruction, we rejoice that something is presented to our view, which has stood from everlasting, and will remain forever.
When we have looked on the pleasures of life, and they have vanished away; when we have looked on the works of nature, and perceived that they were changing; on the monuments of art, and seen that they would not stand; on our friends, and they have fled while we were gazing; on ourselves, and felt that we were as fleeting as they; — when we have looked on every object to which we could turn our anxious eyes, and they have all told us that they could give us no hope nor support, because they were so feeble themselves; we can look to the throne of God: change and decay have never reached that; the revolution of ages has never moved it; the waves of an eternity have been rushing past it, but it has remained unshaken; the waves of another eternity are rushing toward it, but it is fixed, and can never be disturbed.
And blessed be God, who has assured us, by a revelation from himself, that the throne of eternity is likewise a throne of mercy and love; who has permitted and invited us to repose ourselves and our hopes on that which alone is everlast