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belief and action, which produces such melancholy results in the world, deprives the objection of all force. The belief in the immortality of the soul (like that other grand and fundamental conception of religion-the belief in the omnipresence of God), while professed by all nominal Christians, is apparently practically remembered by few very few. For, in proportion as the conscious recollection that we live, and move, and speak, and think in the presence of an All-pure, All-wise, and benevolent Deity would doubtless change the current of thought and action in most men's lives, so the abiding earnest thought of a future life to be spent still in that same presence, and to be influenced by that we lead now,-such a thought, if really habitually entertained, could not but have a far more lasting and powerful influence upon our poor, meagre endeavours, our trivial existence, our debasing cares.


The religious impressions generally made in early childhood, and in so many minds never subjected to any after examination, rather tend to thwart than to foster the higher influence that should belong to such modes of belief. Doctrines are received with undoubting assent, and by that very acceptance, the facts they relate to are placed beyond the bounds of speculation; thus the resurrection to another life, the last judgment, the punishment and reward of men according to their merits, are accepted as certain facts, while that very certainty leads to a conventional mode (if we may so express it) of considering them. A habit is formed of looking to that future judgment as depending upon our belief and external actions, rather than upon the inward state of the heart and mind, and hence the wide-spread opinion that one act of faith or repentance can counteract the effects of a life-long course of action and feeling, which completes the separation between the present and future stage of existence.

It is, perhaps, in consequence of what we have called a conventional mode of considering religious points, that there appears to be, so generally, a tacit expectation of a state of inactivity in the next world-a sort of extatic contemplation, of which, probably, no one forms any very definite notion. This expectation may be just or not, it is doubtless impossible to prove its fallacy, but it certainly contradicts all the analogy of our present existence, where every trial, and enjoyment, and hope is fitted to train active powers; and it also seems at variance with many passages of Scripture, especially with the parable of the talents, where the good and faithful servant is rewarded by a post of higher service and responsibility. It may seem unimportant what conjectures we form concerning a point which cannot be positively ascertained, but it becomes of importance, when we consider how




much influence our anticipations of another life have upon
present. If following out the analogies of our actual existence,
we look forward to activity and progress, and a further develop-
ment of our nature, then we have an incentive to labour here
which no earthly object can supply. If, on the other hand, we
vaguely expect to pass into a condition of mere blissful repose and
contemplation, many of our most important faculties seem scarcely
worth cultivating, except for earthly purposes. Self-improve-
ment, except as it tends to earthly usefulness, loses the character
of duty, and the anticipation of such an eternal condition is in
itself too alien from the active constitution of our nature to be-
come a constant stimulus to exertion. The hope is rather a con-
soling ray in hours of sorrow and weariness, than the steady
earnest beacon of our daily active life. Yet such should the consi-
deration of immortality really be to us; not a topic of death-bed
hope alone, or of consolation in grief, but a source of strength,
and energy, and earnest fortitude through the whole course of
life; an abiding thought mingling with the earnestness of every
great interest and pursuit-with the sacredness of duty-with
the tenderness of affection. In order that it should have due in-
fluence upon our lives, the infinite reach of existence should be
habitually considered as one continuous whole; death as the
sleep only which divides one of its days from another. This
life must not be thought of as isolated from the future, more than
childhood can be isolated from youth, or youth from manhood.
Through all the physical and mental changes of these successive
periods, we preserve our self-consciousness; to the individual
there is no interruption, though to other eyes, after a lapse of a
few years, the whole being is altered. So may we believe that
it will be through the great cycles of existence. And, as child-
hood is the preparation for youth, and youth for the full develop-
ment of manhood-as each period irresistibly influences that
which follows-so may we fairly conclude, will the whole tenor
of this life influence the future. In this view, we perceive that
it is not merely this or that moral power that we are required by
religion to cultivate and exercise here, nor this or that act which
we are required to perform; but that it is our whole spiritual
nature which is to be disciplined and purified through earthly
labour and trials; since, if immortal, it is as a whole, it is all
that mysterious being with its faculties and affections; all
within us, in a word, which tends beyond earthly necessities and
wants, and we can have no right to say to any part of that
which is spiritual and immortal-"Belong thou to the perishable
things of clay." Yet this we practically do, as often as we wil-
fully neglect the powers we are endowed with, or value them only
as they bring profit and reward among men.



Whatever be our speculations concerning a future state, one truth seems indubitable,—namely, that to whatever course the constitution of our nature clearly points, our obligation to follow it is as imperative as if the law thus written in our nature had been especially revealed from Heaven. Now, there is nothing clearer in the constitution of man than his capacity of progressive improvement. At his birth his faculties are all undeveloped, and the infant, apparently, differs in nothing from the young of other animals, except in his greater helplessness. It is only by a long training that he is fitted for the commonest purposes of life; and it is in proportion to the development and cultivation of his moral and mental faculties, that he rises in the scale of being, from a state but little superior to that of the brutes, to be the noblest of God's creatures. How clear is the obligation thus laid upon us to cultivate the faculties with which we are gifted, in order to work out the purposes for which God gave us life? In neglecting to use them, in voluntarily allowing them to remain undeveloped, we tacitly refuse the place assigned to us in the economy of the universe; we fall into the sin which brought such deep condemnation on the unprofitable servant, who buried his talent in the earth.

Future development is equally seen to be the law of our being if we examine our moral nature, under another aspect,—namely, in its capacity for happiness. It has been asserted in all ages, that the end of man's being is happiness; and to doubt this whilst believing in the perfect beneficence of an Almighty Creator, would be a strange contrad tion. The only question is, in what does this happiness consist? If it be earthly, then it must be subject to all the changes and chances of sublunary things, to all which makes earth's fairest paradise become a desolate wilderness, its richest fruits turn to poison and bitterness; and lastly to the felling stroke of death. Can such happiness be the end of a being destined to immortality? But if, on the contrary, we seek the happiness for which we were created in the exercise and gratification of the feelings which belong to our immortal nature, in the love of truth, justice, knowledge, goodness, beauty, and holiness, in the love of God, in a word, which comprises all these; and in the pure and strong affections with which these seem to blend, giving them sacredness and power, though we shall not indeed be saved from the inevitable ills which "flesh is heir to,” our soul's treasure will be placed beyond their reach. Even in our present state we find that the pleasures which are the most lasting, and the least alloyed, flow from these sources. The love of knowledge accompanies us to our latest hour, and opens to us, even in thorny and rugged paths, perpetual well-springs of enjoyment; benevo




lence in its fullest sense, as the love of our fellow-creatures, adds all their happiness to our own, and affords even a consolation for the loss of our own; the love of moral beauty or holiness leads us to the contemplation of God, from whence we derive the most exalted pleasures and cheering strength amidst the evils that press around And these principles, if habitually cherished, strengthen as the powers of life decay, making us feel, as years wear on, that we are drawing nearer to the state when they shall be developed in their full perfection. It is true, that the mind most alive to these emotions is also most painfully affected by the moral evil, degradation, and misery, abounding everywhere in this life, but trust in a Guiding Power will not allow this feeling to destroy the joy arising from those higher contemplations.

To see God, to know God-in other words, to see and know perfect wisdom and perfect goodness-these are the highest rewards offered to the Christian's hope; and in this sense the end of man's being is assuredly happiness. But if we would attain that happiness, we must, at least, prepare for it, by the cultivation of those principles of our nature on which our capacity for enjoying it depends. To the mind where they are absent, or in which they are inferior to the feelings and desires belonging to our earthly condition, such happiness would be impossible. It follows that, to cultivate and strengthen them, to give them their due supremacy over the lower faculties, must be the principal object of our present existence; and only so far as we succeed or fail in that, can we consider our life to have answered its purpose or not. Such considerations might induce those who think selfimprovement a matter of choice and convenience, to falter in their conclusions, and arrest the tide of ignorance, idleness, and frivolity which destroys half the resources of society, and reduces a large proportion of human beings to a condition little superior to that of the painted butterflies of our gardens.

The nature of the happiness for which we were created, its removal beyond the bounds of earth, is strongly attested also by certain facts in the moral government of the world-namely, in the twofold purpose visible in it, with regard to the individual and the whole race. Whilst religion teaches us the value of each human soul in the eyes of its Creator, history shows us all individual interests, happiness, and even life itself, forced to give way before the great object of the improvement of the race, or rather made the means by which that object is attained. Every truth beneficial to humanity is worked out into clearness by slow degrees, and at an expense of individual toil and suffering often terrible to contemplate, but which proves the importance of the end for which such sacrifices are made. To establish Chris

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tianity thousands of the world's best and noblest toiled, suffered, and died. And in the bloody struggles which have marked the inauguration of every principle on which the progress and welfare of mankind have been successively built, millions have perished unconscious martyrs to the future good of their race. What can more clearly prove that the proper happiness of man is not on earth?

This twofold purpose is in some measure apparent in the life of each individual; there, also, the labour and trials of each are connected with the good of all, and self-improvement, the great task of every human being, is the most effectual promoter of social improvement. They cannot be separated. The moral reformer, who begins not at home, is among the vainest of enthusiasts. At all times the silent influence of example, and the indefinable authority of a high tone of mind and character, are of more weight than any outward reforms that a man might introduce; and, on the other hand, self-improvement can only be worked out by means of the social duties and affections which promote the welfare of our fellow-creatures. The solitary student may amass knowledge and sharpen his intellect, and the religious recluse may attain a high pitch of devotional fervour, but the full and healthy development of both moral and intellectual faculties can be wrought out only where the social affections are called forth, and judgment and reason habitually exercised by intercourse with our fellowcreatures. We need only look around us to see how wide a gate is opened to evil, when these two objects-social duty and individual improvement—are severed. We see, for instance, persons eminent for piety and self-denial, become more and more contracteď in their views, thinking that they do God service by mingling as little as possible with the world in which he appointed them to live; while, on the other hand, we see too many of those who labour diligently in their worldly callings, and, by their industry or talents, are directly or indirectly benefactors to humanity, wholly neglect the true vocation of every man-self-disciplineand the responsibilities imposed on us by the privileges of an immortal nature. The latter neglect moral influence altogether; the former cramp and lower it. Both alike fall short of the good they might have attained for themselves and others.

Not only, however, can no human being be isolated from his species, but none should venture to desire it. We are created social beings, and, by the bond of Christianity, are brethren; and thus we owe a debt of love and usefulness to this land of our mortal pilgrimage. Every earnest mind accustomed to look upon life, and to consider its own condition and that of others, must feel that it is the sacred duty of each individual to contribute his

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