« PreviousContinue »
And Saba's spicy groves pay tribute there.
Saw never, such as Heaven stoops down to see.
Trust in the Saviour.-WORDSWORTH.
NOT seldom, clad in radiant vest,
Not seldom, evening in the west
The smoothest seas will sometimes prove,
To the confiding bark, untrue;
And if she trust the stars above,
The umbrageous oak, in pomp outspread,
But thou art true, incarnate Lord!
Who didst vouchsafe for man to die ;
Thy smile is sure, thy plighted word
No change can falsify!
I bent before thy gracious throne,
And asked for peace with suppliant knee;
The active Service of Heaven.-NATURAL HISTORY OF ENTHUSIASM.
HEAVEN, the ultimate and perfected condition of human nature, is thought of, amidst the toils of life, as an elysium of quiescent bliss, exempt, if not from action, at least from the necessity of action. Meanwhile every one feels that the ruling tendency and the uniform intention of all the arrangements of the present state, and of almost all its casualties, is to generate and to cherish habits of strenuous exertion. Inertness, not less than vice, is a seal of perdition. The whole course of nature, and all the institutions of society, and the ordinary course of events, and the explicit will of God, declared in his Word, concur in opposing that propensity to rest which belongs to the human mind, and combine to necessitate submission to the hard yet salutary conditions under which alone the most extreme evils may be held in check, and any degree of happiness enjoyed. A task and duty is to be fulfilled, in discharging which the want of energy is punished even more immediately and more severely than the want of virtuous motives.
Here, then, is visible a great and serious incongruity between matter of fact and the common anticipations of the future state: it, therefore, deserves inquiry whether these anticipations are really founded on the evidence of Scripture, or whether they are not rather the mere suggestions of sickly spiritual luxuriousness. This is not the place for pursuing such an inquiry; but it may be observed, in passing,
that those glimpses of the supernal world which we catch from the Scriptures have in them, certainly, quite as much of the character of history as of poetry, and impart the idea-not that there is less of business in heaven than on earth, but more. Unquestionably the felicity of those beings of a higher order, to whose agency frequent allusions are made by the inspired writers, is not incompatible with the assiduities of a strenuous ministry, to be discharged, according to the best ability of each, in actual and arduous contention with formidable, and, perhaps, sometimes, successful opposition.
A poetic notion of angelic agency having in it nothing substantial, nothing necessary, nothing difficult, and which consists only in an unreal show of action and movement, and in which the result would be precisely the same apart from the accompaniment of a swarm of butterfly youths, must be spurned by reason, as it is unwarranted by Scripture. Scripture does not affirm or imply that the plenitude of divine power is at all in more immediate exercise in the higher world than in this: on the contrary, the revelation so distinctly made of a countless array of intelligent and vigorous agents, designated usually by an epithet of martial signification, precludes such an idea. Why a commission of subalterns?—why an attendance of celestials upon the flight of the bolt of omnipotence? That bolt, when actually flung, needs no coadjutor!
But if there be a real and necessary, not merely a shadowy, agency in heaven, as well as on earth; and if human nature is destined to act its part in such an economy, then its constitution, and the severe training it undergoes, are at once explained; and then, also, the removal of individuals in the very prime of their fitness for useful labor ceases to be impenetrably mysterious. This excellent mechanism of matter and mind, which, beyond any other of his works, declares the wisdom of the Creator, and which, under his guidance, is now passing the season of its first preparation, shall stand up anew from the dust of dissolution, and then,
with freshened powers, and with a store of hard-earned and practical wisdom for its guidance, shall essay new labors we say not perplexities and perils-in the service of God, who, by such instruments, chooses to accomplish his designs of beneficence. That so prodigious a waste of the highest qualities should take place, as is implied in the notions which many Christians entertain of the future state, is, indeed, hard to imagine.
The mind of man, formed, as it is, to be more tenacious of its active habits than even of its moral dispositions, is, in the present state, trained, often at an immense cost of suffering, to the exercise of skill, of forethought, of courage, of patience; and ought it not to be inferred, unless positive evidence contradicts the supposition, that this system of education bears some relation of fitness to the state for which it is an initiation? Shall not the very same qualities which here are so sedulously fashioned and finished, be actually needed and used in that future world of perfection? Surely the idea is inadmissible, that an instrument, wrought up, at so much expense, to a polished fitness for service, is destined to be suspended for ever on the palace walls of heaven, as a glittering bauble, no more to make proof of its temper.
Perhaps a pious, but needless jealousy, lest the honor due to Him "who worketh all in all" should be in any degree compromised, has had influence in concealing from the eyes of Christians the importance attributed in the Scriptures to subordinate agency; and thus, by a natural consequence, has impoverished and enfeebled our ideas of the heavenly state. But assuredly it is only while encompassed by the dimness and errors of the present life, that there can be any danger of attributing to the creature the glory due to the Creator. When once, with open eye, that "excellent glory" has been contemplated, then shall it be understood that the divine wisdom is incomparably more honored by the skilful and faithful performances, and by the cheerful toils, of agents who have been fashioned and
fitted for service, than it could be by the bare exertions of irresistible power; and then, when the absolute dependence of creatures is thoroughly felt, may the beautiful orders of the heavenly hierarchy, rising and still rising towards perfection, be seen and admired, without hazard of forgetting Him who alone is absolutely perfect, and who is the only fountain and first cause of whatever is excellent.
The Scriptures do, indeed, most explicitly declare, not only that virtue will not be lost in heaven, but that its happiness will be unalloyed by fear, or pain, or want. But the mental associations formed in the present state, make it so difficult to disjoin the idea of suffering and of sorrow from that of labor, and of arduous and difficult achievement, that we are prone to exclude action as well as pain from our idea of the future blessedness. Yet assuredly these notions may be separated; and if it be possible to imagine a perfect freedom from selfish solicitudesa perfect acquiescence in the will, and a perfect confidence in the wisdom, power and goodness of God-then also may we conceive of toils without sadness, of perplexities without perturbations, and of difficult or perilous service without despondencies or fear.
The true felicity of beings furnished with moral sensibilities, must consist in the full play of the emotions of love, fixed on the centre of good; and this kind of happiness is unquestionably compatible with any external condition, not positively painful; perhaps even another step might be taken; but the argument does not need it. Yet it should be remembered, that, in many signal and well-attested instances, the fervor of the religious affections has almost or entirely obliterated the consciousness of physical suffering, and has proved its power to vanquish every inferior emotion, and to fill the heart with heaven, even amid the utmost intensities of pain. Much more, then, may these affections, when freed from every shackle, when invigorated by an assured possession of endless life, and when heightened