Gambar halaman



WHEN writing these words, the apostle was looking forward to his own dissolution. He knew that he must soon die, for he saw that death was common to all. The fathers to whom he had looked up for instruction, and whose gray locks were a crown of glory unto them, had long since vacated their seats, and descended to “the house appointed for all living." The companions of his youth, those who had associated with him in the heyday of life, who had participated in his ambitious, aspiring plans, and mingled with him in scenes of festivity and mirth, had many of them gone before him to the eternal world. The arrows of death had flown all around him, and he had seen many cut down on his right hand and on his left; he knew that his turn must soon come, and that the fatal, unerring dart, would shortly find its home in his bosom.

Death, he knew also, was God's appointment in consequence of sin. "It is appointed unto men once to die," was his own solemn assertion. More clearly than any of his brethren had he shown the relation between sin and death, as the great relation of the cause to the effect: "As by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned." He had included himself and all our race under the appellation of sinners, who must suffer the penalty of a violated law.

* Preached at Salem, February 12, 1837, on the occasion of the death of Mrs. Martha Pool.

He knew that he must soon die, for he felt the workings of death in his members. His excessive labours for the cause of Christ and the welfare of his brethren had already undermined his constitution; his fatigues and manifold sufferings had impaired his strength, and diminished his energies. He saw that nature must soon sink under the weight of his bodily infirmities, and that should he escape the martyr's stake, it would be only to find a premature death in his busy round of duties.

In thus anticipating death, however, the apostle was fully persuaded of two great truths, which he has expressed in the words of our text. 1. That he possessed an immaterial principle which would survive the dissolution of the body, and endure to all eternity—a principle so noble in its nature and in its effects, that he speaks of it as constituting the human being, though the body be dead. The apostle was no skeptic, though he had drunk deeply from the fountains of philosophy. He was no materialist, but rejoiced in the consciousness that while the outward man perished, the inward man was renewed day by day. 2. That an eternal residence was prepared for him (and all the followers of Christ) in heaven. Of this heaven and its unchanging glories he had very just conceptions. Though the joys reserved for those who love God could. not be displayed to human sight, or be comprehended by sinful minds, yet God had revealed them unto him by his Spirit. He had even been "caught up to the third heaven," to gaze upon its dazzling glories-to survey its unbounded plains of happiness-to walk its golden streets-to listen to the choral songs of saints and angels around the throne, and then let down again to earth to toil and suffer till his Master should call him home to rest. No wonder, then, that the anticipation of death was entirely divested of gloom and fear, and that he was even joyful as the tabernacle of flesh was dissolving. These ravishing truths

had taken entire possession of his soul, and had driven out every feeling of despondency and distrust. Never, perhaps, my hearers, did more triumphant language burst from the lips of the apostle unless when, in the immediate prospect of his martyrdom, he exclaimed, "I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing."

We know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.

Let us very briefly consider,

I. The source from which this knowledge is derived.

That the soul is immortal cannot be demonstrated from the works or changes of nature. With the assistance of the Bible we may trace many analogies from nature which will lead us to believe in this important doctrine. But nature is a mystery which the guiding hand of revelation alone can teach us to unravel. Nature's light, aside from that which beams from heaven, falling upon the darkness. with which we are surrounded, renders it but the more appalling.

The changes of nature, which we call the seasons, might seem at first to afford us a ray of light in pursuing our inquiries concerning the destiny of man. Spring returns again to the same soil when the desolations of winter are over, and summer yearly clothes the same valleys with their robes of green. And will not "spring visit the mouldering urn?" Nature is silent here. The old man sees that his spring is past for ever, and that he can behold the ripened sweets of summer only in his offspring. The vegetable world also sends forth no light to cheer us.

The seed is placed in the earth; it germinates, and a fair plant appears, which arrives at maturity and decays; but the seed from which it sprung, decayed to nourish it. Thus man arrives at his maturity, accomplishes the objects of his physical existence, and perishes. What have you learned from this analogy but the fact, that generations succeed each other in regular and quick succession, and that the father must soon lend his ashes to cover those of his children!

The chrysalis, however, holds out to us a glimmering light. This is the first beam which falls upon us; but does it not in the end both disappoint and mock us? With wonder and delight we behold the worm enveloping itself in its oval case, remaining dormant for a season, and then bursting its covering, and appearing in all the variegated beauty and gaudy colouring of the butterfly. Will not the dead burst from the grave and appear on earth again with renewed beauty? May we not hope that the human body, the fairest of earthly forms, possesses such powers as to outrival the grovelling worm? But does it remain dormant ? Alas! as soon as the warmth of life has left it, corruption seizes it; scarce has the parting breath heaved the bosom before the work of dissolution goes on in every member. In a few days we must remove from our sight, and bury in the earth that form, now loathsome, which we once delighted to hold in our embraces, and clasp to our bosoms! Still, restless and anxious, man walks forth amid the tombs to see if any of their inmates have shaken off corruption. Have any thrown off the drapery of death? Have any burst the clods of the valley? Alas! his only answer is the murmuring breeze, mournfully waving the rank grass of the grave. But, anxious inquirer, call memory to thine aid, and let history be thy assistant. Thus accompanied, go back to the days of the patriarchs. "Your fathers, where are they?" Have any of them arisen? Alas! the

[ocr errors]

unbroken silence of the grave stops our inquiries. O! have not these long sleepers been dormant long enough to awake, if indeed they will ever be reanimated? Thus man returns from his search, bewildered and despondent. The light which he has followed has led him into more inextricable mazes, and he returns no more to wander, but to weep and die.

Philosophy, after all its researches and discoveries, cannot tell us what is the essence of mind, or whether it be indeed distinct from the essence of matter. It can enumerate the different faculties or powers of the mind, and show us the laws by which it is governed, but cannot tell us its destiny. It sees, on the one hand, how much it is affected by the body-how weak it frequently becomes when disease fastens on our systems-how childish its manifestations often appear when old age palsies our physical energies; and it anxiously asks, Will it not cease altogether with the dissolution of its tenement? On the other hand, it beholds it sometimes triumphing over the weakness of the body-gaining new strength under bodily exhaustion-seeing things in a clearer light through the opening crevices of its prison-house, and putting forth its noblest energies in the last moments of expiring nature. And then philosophy, bewildered, asks, Will not the soul live independent of the body? It has learned, also, that if certain portions of the brain are impaired or destroyed, certain functions of the mind are lost. Remove one part, and we cease to remember past events; another, and judgment forsakes us; if all be removed, all these powers are witnessed no more. It sees too, that the material part which is taken away moulders into dust. Has not that which remembered and reasoned, shared its fate? Philosophy cannot answer. The body, it sees, is disor ganized and entirely decomposed; is it thus with the mind, or does it exist independent and entire? In vain we

« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »