G. B. F. (Gerard Benjamin Fleet) Hallock.

The English pulpit : collection of sermons online

. (page 45 of 45)
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present state, much is placed within the limits of these powers. Look-
ing upon the world in which he is placed, he contemplates the wonder-
ful charm of being carried on, by almost imperceptible links, through
the vegetable to the brute, and through the brute to the rational crea-
tion : he searches out the order of parts apparently discordant and
detached ; refers to its proper class, each moving creature that hath
life, and each plant that adorns the garden or the field ; he investigates
the nature of things, and renders subservient to his own interests, his
health or his comfort, water and air, light and heat. He calls the
microscope to his aid, and discovers in every leaf, in every drop of
water, and in every grain of sand, beings, diminutive indeed, but
which, by the perfection of their life and powers, furnish additional
proof of the wisdom and beneficence of God. Rising above the earth,
he tells the number of the stars, explains the laws of the planetary
worlds, and calculates, with amazing exactness, the periods of their
varied revolutions. Passing from nature to nature's God, he beholds
in the magnitude and grandeur of the objects that surround him, the
majesty and power of God ; in their variety, fitness and order, his infi-
nite wisdom ; and in the provision made for the supply of the returning
wants of every living thing, his providential care and goodness : and
passing from nature to revelation, he finds fuller manifestations of the
Divine will. Extensive, however, as man's present knowledge may
be, yet compared with what remains to be known, it is as nothing.
There are yet innumerable regions which man has never traversed, and
mines of inexhaustible richness which he has never penetrated. In
the nature and reason of things, in the works and ways of God, in the
dispensations of Providence and the plan of redemption, he sees much
that is veiled in partial or entire obscurity, and which yet escapes his
grasp. He is here but in the dawn of being ; he sees only in part ;
not indeed because his powers are unequal to the task of comprehend-
ing any more, but because he " sees through a glass darkly," because,
though the intellectual eye is strong in many cases, the communicating
medium is dim or defective.

And has Infinite Wisdom given these capacities, yet at the same
time resolved that they shall never arrive at perfection ? Has Infinite
Wisdom furnished the immaterial vessel with powers to explore the
vast ocean of eternity, yet at the same time, decreed that its voyage
shall be confined to the narrow straits of this short and uncertain life ?



396 THE ENGLISH PULPIT.

Impossible ! Divine Wisdom must adapt the means to the end ; and
adjust the powers of beings to the purposes for which those powers
were suited, and to the sphere in which those beings were designed to
move.

2. The second proof, of this class, is derived from the moral powers
of the mind. That such powers are possessed, we have already seen ;
but, alas ! how low is the degree of perfection to which they here
attain ! Passing by the thousands, who never emerge from the dark-
ness and pollution of sensuality, nor burst the bonds of appetite ; who
never seek to attain the perfection of their nature, till the sun of life
is on the decline, or about to set ; and turning our attention to the
wisest and best of men to be found in the present state ; after all their
conflicts with inward depravity, with an alluring world, and a tempting
enemy, and after all the conquests which, aided by Divine grace, they
have achieved, how low, in reality, are their acquirements ! How
defective their piety towards their God ! How weak their sense of
obligation to their Creator and Preserver ! How little their reverence
for the authority, their gratitude for the mercies, their delight in the
favor, and their obedience to the will of their heavenly Father ! In a
word, how imperfect their conformity to the law and perfections of
their God ! A voice, in every Christian's breast, echoes the language
of an apostle, " Not as though I had already attained, either were
already perfect ; I count not myself to have apprehended."

Impelled by the desires which the Spirit of holiness has implanted
in his breast, the believer " forgets the things that are behind, and
reaches forward to those things which are before." He longs for a
state more congenial to the best wishes of his heart ; a state, in which,
irregular appetites shall no more corrupt the mind ; in which, temptar
tions shall no more solicit to sin. " I shall be satisfied," he cries,
when I awake up in thy likeness." And has the God of infinite good-
ness and wisdom fitted his intelligent creature for such advancement in
holiness, such high degrees of excellence, and will he allow no sufficient
opportunities for the attainment of them ? Yes ! The Wisdom, that
gave those powers, designed their perfection : they shall, therefore, be
transplanted to a happier soil, and placed under more genial skies,
where they shall bloom as the rose of Sharon ; shall flourish in per-
petual fragrance and beauty.

3. The last of this sort of proofs of the immortaUty of the soul, I
shall mention, is founded on the acknowledgment which has been
made, by men of all ages and nations, of their decided conviction of
the truth of this all-important doctrine.

Whether we turn our attention to ancient or modern times, to bar-



WORTH OF THE SOUL. 397

barous or to civilized countries, those have always been found, who
have received the doctrine of the soul's immortalitj. Two striking
instances, from heathen writers of antiquity, shall be given.

Zenophon, the Grecian historian, represents Cyrus, as thus address-
ing his sons, before his death : — "Do not imagine, that when I leave
you I shall cease to exist. For even when I was yet with you, my
spirit you could not discern ; but that it animated this body, you were
fully persuaded by the actions which I performed. Be assured, it will
continue the same, though you see it not. I can never believe that
man lives only while he is in the body, and dies when that is dissolved ;
or, that the soul loses all intelligence on being separated from an unin-
telligent mass of earth ; but, rather, that on being liberated from all
mixture with the body, pure and entire, it enters upon its true, intel-
lectual existence ! "

The great Roman orator represents Cato thus speaking to two
friends : — "As long as we are shut up in this dungeon of sense, we
have to toil through the painful and necessary drudgery of life, and to
accomplish the laborious task of a hireling. The celestial spirit is, as
it were, depressed, and plunged into the mire of this world — a state
repugnant to its true nature and eternal duration. Oh ! glorious day !
when I shall be admitted into the assembly of the wise and good :
■when I shall make an eternal escape from this sink of corruption, this
den of folly ! "

If such were the expectations of unenlightened heathens, how much
more clearly are life and immortality brought to light by the gospel !

III. This is the third source, from whence we would draw some
proofs of the soul's immortality.

The oracles of God expressly teach the immaterial nature, the inde-
pendent existence, and the immortal life of the soul.

The sacred historian, in the account given of the creation of man,
has strongly marked the communication of a principle or nature dis-
tinct from matter, and different from the gifts bestowed on the various
orders of beings which had been previously formed. In the creation
of them Jehovah is represented as but speaking, and causing it to be
done. " Let the waters, or the earth, bring forth the moving creature
that hath life," is the command given, and creatures possessing animal
life, with all its instincts and powers, present themselves.

But is man to be formed ? — the three persons of the Deity are
called into solemn deliberation. " Let us make man in our own image,
after our likeness," is the extraordinary counsel taken, and the resolu-
tion adopted. Is man to be brought into existence ? Strongly to



398 THE ENGLISH PULPIT.

mark the communication of a distinct and superior nature, God him-
self " breathes into his nostrils the breath of life, and he becomes a
living soul." A nature is communicated, superior to that possessed
bj any other creature of earthly origin, and more nearly resembling
the Divine : a spirit is given, possessing thinking and reflecting
powers.

In the language of holy confidence adopted by the Psalmist ■ — "Thou
shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory,"
we see an expectation entertained of an admission to the realms of
everlasting light, at the close of the present life. The wise man con-
cludes his striking description of the infirmities of age and the decays
of life, with that solemn declaration — " Then shall the dust return
to the earth as it was ; and the spirit shall return unto God who gave
it." Two distinct parts of man are here mentioned ; and widely dif-
ferent statements are made respecting them. The body is called
" dust," and it is affirmed, it " shall return to the earth as it was ; "
formed of material elements, to those elements it shall again return.
But the mind is styled " the spirit ; " and in direct reference to the
account given by Moses of the creation of man it is said, it " shall
return unto God who gave it." It shall pass, at the death of the
body, into another state of existence, and shall be appointed by its
Maker and Judge, to dwell in paradise with " the spirits of just men
made perfect," or (since the righteous alone can dwell in that king-
dom of holiness,) to sufier the miseries of the lost forever.

The same doctrine was taught by the incarnate Son of God. When
arming the minds of his disciples and apostles against the assaults,
which he knew that they would have to sustain from the power and
malice of the enemies of his religion, he said — "Fear not them who
kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul ; but rather fear him,
who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell." Here, also, two
separate parts of man are clearly pointed out ; and very different
declarations are made respecting them. Of the body, the Savior
states — " men may kill it." Material in its nature, it is liable to
decay ; and by disease, or violence may be deprived of life. And
were the soul nothing more than animated matter, and dependent for
its existence on the body, the same stroke that kills the body, would
necessarily terminate also the existence of the soul ; and, at death, the
whole man must die. This, however, the Savior affirms not to be the
case : " men cannot kill the soul." The soul must, therefore, be
immaterial in its nature, and must not depend, for existence, on any
mere bodily powers.

" We know," says the apostle, " that if the earthly house of this tab-



WORTH OF THE SOUL. 399

emacle were dissolved, we have a building of God ; a house, not made
with hands, eternal in the heavens." " Therefore we are always con-
fident, knowing that whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent
from the Lord ; we are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent
from the body, and present with the Lord."

Such are some of the arguments, in proof of the all-important doc-
.ttrine of the immortality of the soul of man. It only remains, that we
make a short application of the subject to ourselves. And in doing
this, I beseech every one of you to put to himself, solemnly and ear-
nestly, the question contained in the text — " What shall a man give
in exchange for his soul ? "

What can redeem the immortal spirit ? — a spirit exposed, in conse-
quence of its guilt, to banishment from the presence of God, from the
glories of his kingdom, from the joys of his right hand ; and doomed
to eternal wretchedness and despair ? Were the whole material crea-
tion offered as the purchase of its redemption, how inadequate would
be the ransom, how disproportionate the price !

Each of you, my brethren, possesses a soul thus invaluable ; a soul,
which must live in hapiness or misery, in heaven or hell, for ever.
This fact, the careless and thoughtless amongst you may disregard or
disbelieve. Be it known to you, however, that if a God of omnipo-
tence, of justice, and of grace, has endued you with immortal souls,
your neglect or disbelief will neither alter their nature, nor extinguish
their being. Enlightened and warmed by the mid-day sun, you may
shut your eyes ; and then attempt to deny, or profess to doubt, his
existence ; but such denials, or pretended doubts, destroy him not —
they shroud not the heavens in darkness, they consign not the earth
to eternal dreariness.

The poor infidel, who, in the hour of death, stretched out his impious
arm, and exclaimed — "I will not die ! " became, notwithstanding, the
prey of the last enemy, and found, when too late, that neither his dis-
belief nor his power, could withstand the purpose of the Almighty.
You, too, may neglect or disbelieve, but you cannot alter your immor-
tality. You may convert the glory of your nature into an object of
alarm ; and turn Heaven's greatest blessing, into your heaviest curse.
You may ruin, but you cannot annihilate, the soul. Immortality —
a resurrection — a judgment day, are appointed to you by that God
whose eye you cannot escape, whose purpose you cannot frustrate, and
whose holiness requires that (as his word has threatened) " the wicked
shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God."

The question returns, with doable force, " What will you give in



400 THE ENGLISH PULPIT.

exchange for your soul ? " Pensioners on the Divine bounty, you have'
nothing to offer ; and had you ten thousand worlds, they would not fur-
nish a sufficient price. It cost more to redeem the soul.

But, blessed be the eternal name, no price is asked for you. That
God, against whom you have so often, and so ungratefully rebelled ;
whose holiness you have offended, whose majesty you have insulted,
whose goodness you have abused, and whose displeasure you have
deserved ; " wonder, heavens, and be astonished, earth ! " that
God has said concerning you — " Deliver him from going down to the
pit ; I have found a ransom." Yes, " God so loved the world, that he
gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him, should
not perish, but have everlasting life." That Son, of whom it is reveal-
ed, that " he was in the beginning with God, and was God," came into
the world, proclaining — " I am come that they might have life, and
that they might have it more abundantly." " The Son of man came
not to be ministered unto, but to minister ; and to give his life a ran-
som for many." The bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will
give for the life of the world. This is my blood of the New Testa-
ment, which is shed for many, for the remission of sins." Well did
the apostle say — " Ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as
silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb
without blemish and without spot."

Behold, then, my brethren, with the eye of faith, your merciful and
Almighty Savior ! See him dying for human guilt ; and rising again
for the justification of human hope. " I am the resurrection and the
life ; he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live ;
and whosoever liveth and believeth in me, shall never die." Such is
the gracious, yet simple declaration of Jesus, the Savior of sinners.
To you is this word of salvation sent. Receive it with that self-appro-
priation, earnestness, and gratitude, which so well become guilty and
perishing sinners ; and ever remember, that " if any man be in Christ,
he is a new creature ; " — that " faith overcometh the world, purifieth
the heart, and worketh by love."



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Online LibraryG. B. F. (Gerard Benjamin Fleet) HallockThe English pulpit : collection of sermons → online text (page 45 of 45)