« ForrigeFortsett »
countenances, and hear the merry peal and vivacious laugh. that there is no enjoyment there--the whole scene would contradict us. There may be some hearts concealed under those gay exteriors, but for the most part those who compose that circle, are for the moment in a state of pleasurable excitement. And so, too, abounding wealth and popular applause are sources of great happiness to unsanctified hearts, and suchu as judge only from outward appearances, are apt to look upou this world's votaries, as the monopolizers of enjoyment. We have, however, here only the front view of the picture ; examine it more closely, and you will see in the background the angel of death advancing, and one and another of these figures moving through the scene, are dropping at his touch, and these happy souls in quick succession are exchanging all their hilarity and high excitement for the sorrows and the darkness of as eternal night. Thus the world is moving on, day after day perpetually changing its phases. Thus end every day in more or less numerous instances, all the joys which the world cass give. If we take this earth for our portion, it is our only portion, and bowever large it may be, it is soon to be wrested fro us, and then the human mind is left to feed for ever upon reflection; and the only word of consolation, if consolation it can be called, which falls upon the ear, is this—" Son, remember that thou in thy life time receivest thy good things.” “ Death. what a melancholy day to those who have no God."
There is one more view to be taken of the subject before we have done with those of its relations and aspects which give it interest and importance. Death is but the coming of the Lord. The time, the circumstances, the manuer of our departure, are not left to fate or lawless contingency. We are too prone to look at death solely as a natural event, something which takes place in accordance with a law of physical necessity. In one sense it is a natural event, as nature is sinful, but in every other sense it is the most unnatural event that takes place in God's Kingdom ; and every man feels it to be so, and and his emotions in view of it, require some other explanations than such as the laws of nature furnish. We may talk like philosophers upon the subject, but we feel like men ; and alter all, this is the thought which gives death its power-it is the appointment of heaven-it is the coming of God to the soul. Do we doubt it? Need we be told by whose order death desolates all our joys? Can we for a moment harbor the supposition, that a universal law, whose operation no skill can evade, no power interrupt, to which there have been do exceptions, but such as have displayed the presence in big: wondrous Sovereignty, of Him who alone can control his owis laws, is the offspring of contingency or the creature of chance? Is the being in whose nostrils God breathed the breath of life, housed in the grave without his knowledge, and become the
food of worms without his order? No, brethren, it cannot be. The author of life must be the appointer of death. " He hides his face and we are troubled," he takes away our breath, and we return to the dust. He clothes the King of Terrors with his armor, assigns to disease its work, numbers our days and summons us away.
And why so terrible? Is it painful to part with earthly friends, earthly possessions, and earthly joys? It is. But yet the feeling is the same, whatever be our earthly circumstances and relations. Here poverty in its rags trembles—there wealth in its splendid attire crouches and weeps, and the proudest, loftiest spirit shivers through fear. Ah! death, as the coming of the Lord, is terrible; because man feels that there are enmities with which he bas sported, and he is sensible of the painful reaction of his folly upon his own soul. There is a controversy managed by a being whose reasoning he cannot refute, even with that God who has appointed him to die, who in death revives the power of conscience, gives vividness to the memorials of the past, and a clear foresight of the future. “ Death is the wages of sin," and sentence of " death has passed upon all men, for that all have sinned."
II. But secondly, the coming of the Lord is not only certain but it is close at hand. Our dying hour is very near. hold," says the master, “I come quickly." If death, viewed in its relations, should excite thought, the rapidity of its approach should add to its exciting power. That we shall die, we know, but when we know not; of this much, however we are certain, we must die ere long. We do not believe it.
We calculate upon a long time in the future. Who, in this congregation, dreams to-day of dying soon, very soon. this subject, the providence of God has taught us some very impressive lessons, and uttered them in very emphatic tones. Have none of us been called, during the last twelve months, to part with friends whose hopes of life at the beginning of the year were as bright as ours now are? Do my youthful hearers miss none from the circle of their companionship? They passed away, how quickly, and very soon death shall extinguish the lustre of that eye, and blanch that cheek of health, and consign that active frame to the stillness of the tomb. I hear a message coming from the graves of eight of those who composed this congregation twelve months ago. I know not for whom the message is designed, but I do know it is meant for some one within these walls to-day. Its meaning is very intelligible, its utterances are very distinct. My hearer, death comes apace for you. Ere this opening year shall have completed its revolution, death shall have separated you from earth, its possessions, its honors, its hopes, and its joys; your dust shall return to the earth as it was, and your spirit shall go to the God who gave it. What a thought to ponder. If I never felt how
And yet upon
inadequate to their theme are human conceptions, and how powerless is human language. I feel it now. We are standing and communing upon the very verge of the grave, and in a few moments are all to burst upon the realities of judgment and eternity. What a reflection; how calculated to impress every heart, and awaken all the anxieties of the human bosom. Listen! oh my soul! listen! my dying hearers. It is the voice of our maker and judge. “Behold, I come quickly.”
I must add one more thought to finish my subject. Death comes suddenly. How silently and surely he steals his march upon his unsuspecting victims. As in the dread hour of midnight, when all are wrapped in sleep, unconscious of his move. ments, insensible to his designs, dreaming of security and peace the thief approaches, “so shall the coming of the Son of Man be.” Almost uniformly death takés men unawares. Even the wise virgins slept with the foolish until the midnight cry startled them. And it is always so with men whose portion is in this world. They are saying continually “Soul, take thine ease,"
,” “to-morrow shall be as this day, and much more abunda ant.” They are very prudent—they have made their calcula. tions with great accuracy, and they feel confi lent in view of their arrangements, that when death does co:ne they shall be prepared; and accordingly, their minds are occupied with their plans, and their hearts with their prospective pleasures, and the world keeps them in a flurry of perpetual excitement; and wben they have just matured some new enterprise, and start out with souls buoyed up by the hope of certain success, the King of Terrors meets them. Death-inexorable death-waits for the accomplishinent of no plans, tarries for the enjoyment of no pleasures. Deaf alike to the voice of entreaty and the cry of dispair, it hurries away its victim from his unfinished enterprises, and his untasted, though anticipated pleasures, to the dread r a'ities of the world which is to come. * I would put the question to my hearers: Did you ever know a man who was not taken unawares, and that, notwithstanding all his warnings, though disease was strewing its victims around him, and shatterin his own frame, though his tottering steps were every day foretelling his fall. And so he will come to you, "in such an hour as ye think not, the Son of Man cometh," is a truth which is yet to be illustrated in your experience.
There is not one of us, my brethren, who, whenever death approaches, will not be able to give many apparently very good reasons why he should not die. Yet we cannot, by argument disarm the King of Terrors of his power, nor by any reasoning, kindle his compassion. He has his work to do, and he does it, and does it often, in a way, and always at a time wholly unexpected.' Yes, this is death; these are its relations, its cits cumstances and its issues.
Upon what fearful subjects, then, do we treat to-day, and
what solemnity they throw over the thoughts and associations of the present hour. Every thing upon which the mind fastens, seems to gather hues from a dying hour. This sanctuary is full of the intimations of deathi-this first Sabbath of a new year is heralding judgment.
And have I spoken the truth, my brethren? Have I said no more than the word of God commands, and the Providence of God instructs me to utter? And is it in reality so? Are these the circumstances and relations of our being? Must we die? Resign to others who labored not for it, the fruit of our toil? Be cut down, just when we had prepared for ease and comfort ? Be torn away from the things of earth, its plans, its pleasures, and its hopes; and as though nature had nothing else to tell us but that we are dying creatures, must we be tortured every hour, be warned by every circumstance, as death obtrudes itself every where upon us, in our business, our retirement, our enjoyments, writing his summons upon our couch, inscribing vanity upon all we own, and all we ask-defeating our purposes, sporting with our plans, and while lope is gilding the far-stretched landscape of eartli, substituting in its place a judgment whose awards are to be eternal. Yes, my hearers, it is even so. We do not ask you to admit the fact, but to consider it. One would think, that once adınitted, we never could forget it—for can we imagine anything so foolish as unconcern about it?
Any thing more irrational than in these circumstances to cling to life with a fondness which nothing but an everlasting possession can justify, and to merge all the vast interests of an eternal world in the comparatively trifling business of an hour ? Why should we, my brethren, think so little of an event so awfully important ? Why bury ourselves in earthly things, and leave this entirely out of our calculation.
I know there are seasons when men do think of it. The hour of death seems to have arrived, and then they feel its importance, and it presses with all its weight upon the unsanctified bosom, and they avow the concern they should have felt before. Ah! how often in these circumstances have been heard the voice of self-reproach--the prayer for indulgence-the promise of amendınent—and then conscious guilt triumphs over every assurance of pardon, or false hope arrests inquiry and deceives the spirit, or stupor steals over the frame and deprives of reason. It is madness to postpone the thought of dying--it calls for our meditation now, the inquiries it starts demands our instant attention. Sport not with a theme so dreadful.
These reflections gather interest and impressive power from the rapid approach of that dread consummation which suggests them. It is, indeed, so, that before this year choses, some of us who are this day in the sanctuary, shall be numbered among
the victims of the fell-destroyer? What, then, can justify our hardihood ? My youthful bearer, what means your presumption ? Man of reason, why your folly? Wby so credulous, so anxious about every thing else, so incredulous and unconcerned here?--here where facts are written as with a sunbeam before your eyes, as death walks all around you, clothed with omnipotence, regarding none of the distinctions which obtain among men, destroying alike the old and the young. the rich and the poor. Surely, there is enough in the message I bring, and di the facts which enforce it, to alarm the most secure, and quicken the most stupid. Come, my unconverted hearer, ponder it well; gold and silver, houses and lands, earthly pleasures which command your attention, are all trifles compared with this subject of your studied and persevering neglect. The anxieties they kindle in your bosom, and the efforts they call forth, are all misplaced and misdirected, perverted and abused in your circumstances. Death, which is to tear you away from these objects, demands all the anxieties they awaken, and all the efforts they secure ; death, at your very doors, claims your first notice, and if we are men of reason, capable of thought, and of distinguishing between good and evil, there is one message which will sink deep into our hearts, and possess all our souls—“prepare to die.”
Oh! I am not wrong when under the influence of such reflections. I preach to you of death-death rapidly approaching. It would be well if it were written upon the walls of the apartment where pleasure leads on ber revelries--upon the coffers in which the miser bides bis gold, and if every breath of popular applause wafted its warning to the ear, I would let childhood learn it, and not suffer old age to forget it. It is a melancholy task I have to perform-a painful theme upon which I am called to dwell. But I come a messenger of God to the domain of death: The spirit of the Lord has sent me to walk among the bones which are very dry. I may be repulsed but I will repeat the warning, multiply the arguments, renew the entreaty. Forget them who may; undervalue them who may; despise them who may; I will be faithful to you, thougb you may be unfaithful to yourselves.
We have said that death was God's appointment. It is the coming of the Lord; do we really believe it? How strange the truth. He kindled the sun to light us on our way. He unlocks his storehouses, and scatters around us his varied beauties. What goodness marks his dispensations, what glory shines in bis procedures. But death-anomalous deathbringing suffering and woe, burying in ruin the beauties we admire, and blighting our dearest joys; this, too, is the appointment of God. We may say, that we believe it-but our faith is a useless principle of a thoughtless mind, wholly inefficient for all purposes of moral activity, and foreign from every exer