BLTC Press Titles

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The Art of Worldly Wisdom

Baltasar Gracian

The Picture of Dorian Gray

Oscar Wilde

My Man Jeeves

P. G. Wodehouse

Further Adventures of an Irish R. M.

Edith Somerville and Martin Ross

Lectures on revivals of religion

by William Buell Sprague


But supposing the intelligent mind, which now passes over these pages, is fully prepared to admit, in all its bearings and consequences, the sublime proposition, that all these intelligent beings are, in the strictest sense, Immortal, and will retain not only an existence after death, but a conscious, sensitive existence^ and will be placed in a condition of consummate happiness or of endless woe; the question then comes with thrilling impulse upon the heart of every Christian minister,—Am I, as one to whom the care of souls is committed, living and labouring under the light and inspiration of this great fact? Is it always present, always condensing my energy of mind to its utmost effort for their welfare; always impelling my sensibility, conscience, reason, invention, to every possible appeal, every device of wisdom and love, by which these immortal creatures may both be apprised of the universal fact, and adequately prepared for that moment in their existence, when they shall become as conscious of their own immortality, as they now are of their susceptibility of mortal pleasures and pains?

It is to be feared, that, in the hearts of some ministers of Christ, there is a very faint apprehension of this great truth, and that it does not rise upon their view surrounded with celestial beams; and that, in consequence, the various duties of the ministry are gone through perfunctorily, but inefficiently. In others, there is an occasional impulse given to the doctrine by some awakening event, some quickening impregnation of the mind, or some gush of spiritual affections; but the impulse soon subsides, and they sink down again into a state of supineness, bordering on insensibility, in which some other, and vastly inferior sentiment gains the mastery. A few, perhaps a very few, can be said to have it powerfully, and any thing like permanently, before the eye of contemplation, distancing all subordinate considerations, and bearing the mind aloft, over difficulties and discouragements, on the eagle-wings of' a heavenly ambition to bring souls to God.' ui Ikuii.-i, ..

But it is highly important, that every minister of Jesus Christ should endeavour to dwell perpetually in the neighbourhood of this sublime fact, and suffer no sense of the awful inferences which may be inseparable from it, to scare him from its recognition. It may seem an astounding proposition, that the souls of all the busy, thoughtless, and impious myriads around should be going into an eternal state, with the certainty that the larger part, the immensely larger part, are utterly unfit for the change.

But the explicit testimony of revelation must explode all vague speculations, and dissipate all doubts. The fact itself must never be obscured, much less questioned, by any minister of God's word. It must be his pole-star. It must be the preliminary to all his designs, the starting-post of all his exertions. Unless it is true, his religion is a fable; and unless it is believed, his office is but a tragic mask. The immortality and the ruin of souls are, in their own nature, parallel truths, and they must be laid side by side, as parallel axioms in the mind, by every minister. Let him throw into his conceptions of them, all the vigour, and all the generality, all the awfulness, and all the individuality, all the immensity and practical infinitude, which belongs to them; let them five as real and unquestionable verities in his mind; let them be to him lights that never go down —influences that never abate—for as they subside or suffer obscuration, so will the energy of his efforts decline—so will the ardour of his love decay—so will the fire of his zeal expire, or sink down into smouldering and offensive embers.

It, is therefore necessary, imperiously so, to awaken attention to the worth, the duration, the everlasting consciousness, the impending fate of human souls. The dependence of that fate, in the consummation, of happiness or woe, upon the evangelical labours of Christian ministers, must be vividly realized. There is imminent danger, amidst the businesses and the agitations of life which surround us, of overlooking, or of undervaluing the soul, and its eternal welfare. There is danger of being decoyed from the high aim of our ministry, by laudable, but lower objects. The vast and ever-changing population of the globe— the apparent insignificance of a single unit in the mighty mass—the astounding and yet familiarized profusion with which the inestimable and responsible gift of life and consciousness is both bestowed and revoked,—all conspire to induce a sort of practical infidelity in regard to the soul, by generating a mode of thinking and talking about human beings, more assimilated than it ought to be, to that in which we treat of the production and decay of mere material forms, or animal natures. We look only at their present existence and relations. A deeper sort of sympathy may be excited towards human sufferings, than towards those of the brute creation; but the undeniable fact is, that the bestowment and resumption of human life by the Creator, are contemplated by us, almost without a thought of that immortal principle which imparts to the body its real dignity, to time its true importance, and to eternity its sublime interest. A child is born into the world; but who says—' Here is the commencement of a conscious existence, which shall never end—here is a nature that will suffer no decay through endless ages—here is a spark of intellectual light just kindling into radiance, which will outlive the bright sun—witness the death of time, and retain its intelligence, its consciousness, its feeling, for

ever—'and maintain its perception of good and evil, and its moral connection with the supreme Spirit, through untold and unimaginable duration. The birth of such a being is little, or not at all, contemplated in reference to its eternity of existence, its immensity of suffering or of joy. It is thought of •only, or chiefly, as a child of time, and its interests for this life, which nature compels us to make our earliest, we are apt to make our exclusive care. The removal of such a being too, in the vast majority of instances, is spoken of only as the loss of a human life, the dissolution of an animated fabric, the departure 'of one of the human animals from amidst a teeming and overgrown population. If the family or the afflicted parents share in our sensibility, and if we drop a tear, or heave a sigh, over their misfortunes, we usually think that we have extended the sphere of oar sympathy far enough. But the Spirit—where is it? Immortality! Who feels the sublime conception? Who values the ineffable, the deathless endowment?

"•Were but one immortal, how would others envy!
How would thrones adore!"

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