« ÎnapoiContinuă »
hopes and feelings, for the great Day, when men and angels shall appear before the judgementseat of Christ; and God shall render unto every one, according to his work.
Now, to explain this point, which has perplexed exceedingly many pious and learned men; it is necessary to tell you, that, in the ancient language of the Scriptures, there are two very different places mentioned under very different names; the one called Gehinnon, or Tophet, the other Hades, or Sheol. Both these are called Hell in English; but, I think, improperly; as Gehinnon is that dreadful lake, burning with brimstone and fire, into which both the souls and bodies of the wicked will be thrown, after the general judgement and resurrection of the last day, and after this world, and all its elements, shall have melted away with fervent heat; while Hades is described as a hollow place below the earth, in which the souls of all men shall abide, while separated from their bodies, and while waiting for the day of judgement. Of this place, then, and of its different regions, a description is here given; and though the words of Christ are certainly not to be understood in a gross or bodily sense; yet, as we may be sure, that He would not, even in a parable, give us a false idea of the other world, we may learn hence, that, immediately after death, the soul of man does not, as some
have fancied, sleep till the day of judgement; but that it is immediately carried, either to a place of pain, or to a place of pleasure, (such pain, and such pleasure, as spirits are capable of feeling,) both which should appear to be situated under the earth; and to be divided by a mighty gulph from each other. In the one of these, which is called Paradise, the spirits of the good remain in joy and hope. Here it was that the penitent thief, on the cross, was promised, that his soul should pass, the very day of his death: thither the soul of Christ himself descended; while His body remained in the sepulchre and it is this common abode of all departed souls, which we mean, when we say, that He descended into hell; for that the blessed Lord went down into the place of torment, it would be wild and wicked to imagine. In the other of these wide regions, which must be the place more properly called Hell, all those abide, whose hope of mercy is past; and to whom there remaineth but a fearful expectation of judgement to come; and a lamentable recollection of the time, which they have misspent on earth. Of these regions,-this place of happiness, and this dungeon of misery,—it hath not pleased the Almighty to give us further knowledge and even these opinions, though founded, as I verily think, upon the plain word of God,must be received with caution, as they
are uttered, God knows, with doubt, humility, and fear.
It is not necessary for us to know the secret things of the world to come: but it is most necessary, that we always keep in mind, that there is a world to come; whose fashion passeth not away; where rich, and poor, are on the same level; and where faith, and works, and alms, and prayers, alone can give us entrance into Paradise, or deliverance from the jaws of Hell. We cannot think of these things without being serious it is impossible for us to look even a little way into that darkness, which follows the grave, without withdrawing our thoughts from the toys and trifles of this world; whose value is mouldering away so soon, and whose noise and clamour will so soon be swallowed up in silence. How do worldly honours come to an end, when the spirit hath unclothed itself of its fleshly robes, and goes in naked apprehension to wait its concluding sentence ! How do the friendships and loves of sinners close; when those, who loved each other best on earth, have the great gulph between them, or are doomed together to a dreadful communion of fire!
But how different are the feelings of the pious and hopeful believer, in looking to the land of souls. To him there shall arise up a light in
the darkness: to him shall hope and happiness open the gates of Paradise, where he shall pass his happy time, with the good and wise men, of every age of the world, with his parents and his virtuous friends, who are gone before; in constant expectation of the goodness of the Lord; and of that Day, when a nobler Paradise shall invite him to its bowers; when his body, glorified and made immortal, shall reclothe his soul, in perfect beauty; and when he shall be admitted to behold the brightness of that God, from whose face the heavens and earth shall flee away.
This is the promise made to us in Scripture: a promise confirmed, not only by Moses, and the prophets; but by the very evidence which the rich man desired that his brethren might receive ;- - the resurrection of a greater than Moses from the dead! Him let us hear; let us believe Him; and in true repentance and in lively faith, let us hope that He, who pardoned the crucified but repentant robber, may open to us, by His merits, the eternal gates of Paradise!
SECOND SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY.
ST. LUKE, xiii. 9.
And if it bear fruit, well; and if not, then, after that, thou shalt cut it down.
Ar the time when these words, which you have heard in the second lesson this morning, were first spoken, two dismal occurrences had lately happened in Jerusalem: the first, when, by the cruelty of the Roman governor, Pilate, a number of Galileans had been massacred, while they were sacrificing in the Temple; the other, when a tower, in that part of the city called Siloam, had fallen on, and crushed to death, `eighteen persons. And, from these fatal events, our Saviour took occasion to teach his followers, 1st, That all rash judgement of the spiritual state of such unfortunate men was to be avoided, as offensive to God, and uncharitable towards our neighbours; and, 2dly, that the true use, which a sinner should make of another sinner's misfortunes, is to take warning by them, and to fear, lest God should bring down the same, or still heavier, on himself. "Suppose ye,"