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AN APPOINTMENT OF GOD.
SPIRITS which are immortal are placed in a perishing world, and informed that there are more durable abodes prepared for them when this shall be dissolved. The intention of their residence in this state is education for the future; and thus the perishable nature of the objects contained in it is explained, inasmuch as the effects they produce are immortal, like the spirits upon which they act.
The future state will be one either of enjoyment or suffering, according to the nature which the spirit derives from the present; but the intention with which this world was created was preparation for the first, which we know by the name of heaven, and in missing which we pervert the object of our existence.
Those who have a serious aim for eternity, therefore, aspire to the state of happiness; and it is
according to their ideas of what that state consists in, that they regard the use to be made of the various objects existing in this, which they are told is the preparing one. Some look upon heaven as a place where happiness will be found only in the exercise of that part of our nature which prompts us to worship the Being who created us; and in contemplating, in the midst of external security and inward peace, the excellence of his nature and the extent of his power. Some look upon it generally as a region of happiness, of which they have distinct idea, except that it differs entirely from that of this world; and some call it the society of the virtuous united in the visible presence of their Maker. in lateib
These views of it exclude a great portion of the pleasure, and business of the world from having any influence on our preparation, and accordingly numbers have withdrawn altogether from them, and, especially in the middle ages of Christianity, have devoted themselves to such occupations as they believed to constitute the felicity of the future ; preparing, by prayer and meditation here, for the more perfect enjoyment of them hereafter. As the pleasures of the world were to be renounced, and the inclination of them of course subdued, since its gratification was unlawful, they adopted severities, which were calculated to alienate the mind from
them; and in pursuit of indifference as to the objects which man is disposed to love, but which they thought would have no future existence, cut off the ties of kindred, and alienated their minds as much as possible from all but the employments which were to continue in future. If their ideas of heaven were correct, I think their conduct was reasonable; for why acquire attachments to pursuits and enjoyments which had no being after the present world? I should look in the same manner upon those, who, entertaining in these days similar opinions of the future, condemn many occupations and amusements common in the world, and employ their time and intellect chiefly on subjects immediately connected with the worship and direct commands of the Divinity. But for my own part I cannot but look upon these ideas of heaven as incorrect; and as a subject of so deep interest is worthy attention in all its lights, I have thrown together the opinions which reflection has at different times suggested.
We have no description of heaven in our bible, and are therefore at liberty to deduce our opinion from any relative circumstances with which we are acquainted. These perhaps may be reduced to two heads: we are told that heaven is a place of happiness, and earth is a place of preparation. As to the first, happiness is not an arbitrary thing, which like a jewel can be given or taken away. It
dépends entirely upon the circumstances of each individual; and must be of a kind which accords with his nature, or it is no happiness to him. Whatever a being has capacities for, he desires; whatever he has powers to do, he wishes to do; and if he find no corresponding objects, he is unhappy through unoccupied capabilities, and feels there is something more which he could enjoy.
On the other hand, objects to which his nature has no correspondence can give him no pleasure, however valuable in themselves. Happiness relates to his own feelings and powers, and has no meaning except in that relation. Now man is a moral, intellectual, and affectionate being. He has ability to be virtuous: he can learn and love. Man is active, free, and desirous of employment. The exertion of one only of his capacities wearies him, and he is prompted by his very nature to summon all into action. He feels pleasure in overcoming the difficulties of virtue, and in assuring himself of his possession of it, by the struggle he makes for the acquisition.
Intellectual pleasures excite his intellectual powers; for instance, he is able to acquire knowledge of the objects around him, and he is urged to it by natural principles of curiosity, and assisted in it by natural convictions agreeing with the order of creation; he can invent new forms out of the ma