Gambar halaman
PDF
ePub

dowed with mere life and instinct, bow the state on which they were about to to inevitable fate; but there are no pre-enter; and in some the resignation which monitions to alarm them; they feel the flows from the desire to be released from pang of nature but not of conscience; it excessive pain. The deaths of which we is momentary, and then follow the un- are now speaking likewise differ essendisturbed repose,—the slumbers of eternal tially from the peaceful departure of rest. Not so with man. That which Christians, in this :- In the one case, the arms death with his greatest terror, is, passive virtues alone are summoned to what we know and what we do not know the task of bearing the weight of unavoidon subjects of the highest moment to our able evil; in the other, there is not only well-being and happiness. In one word, submissive endurance, but positive enjoyour knowledge and our ignorance equally ment; the bitterness is not only neutralawaken in our souls the most appalling ized, but a sweetness is actually infused dismay, when we think of ourselves as into the cup of mortality. So much for creatures, -as dependent creatures, -as philosophy. And we may inquire, How accountable creatures, - as sinful and far have superstition, and false religions dying creatures. On all these points our the inventions of men, contributed to disknowledge and ignorance are strangely pel the terrors of death? blended, and leave us nothing to hope Superstition is the creature of human and everything to dread.

fear, invented for the sole purpose of Let us inquire, for a moment, how all annihilating that fear by imaginations this is met by those systems, which either the most vile, principles the most atrodo not recognise or which reject Chris- cious, actions the most diabolical. Thus tianity.

it obliterates and destroys all that is With regard to this worst and most to great, holy, and divine in the universe, be dreaded consummation, the state of for the purpose of deceiving the soul into mind which is naturally induced by what a fallacious confidence in the hour of we know and what we do not know-death. But there is one grand antidote philosophy, as it is called, cannot advance yet to be noticed which professes to annius a single step. It may increase the bilate the terrors of death, and by a vividness of our perceptions and strengthen method exclusively its own. This is inour convictions as to the truth of all we fidelity. With what success we may know; but it can add nothing new,—it easily ascertain by considering the nature cannot lift up the veil and remove our of the process which it employs and its ignorance. It can offer nothing to allay general effect upon its votaries where its our fears, nothing to mitigate the real principles are brought to the test. To terrors of death. The examples of some ensure peace in death infidelity endeaof the philosophers of the ancient world vours to divest sin of its turpitude, and in contravention of this statement have thus offers the greatest violence to the been referred to, and their tranquil and conscience, to extinguish in the soul the happy departure quoted in favour of their natural longing after a future state, and principles. But who does not perceive thus leaves to operate with all its power that their repose in death, the tranquillity the dread of falling into nought. But which they felt and displayed, is a totally infidelity is the most treacherous as well different thing from the peace which per- as the most daring enemy of man. It vades the bosom of the dying Christian? takes off its mask and reveals its real In many cases it was mere apathy, pro- character to its victim in the hour of his ceeding from a mind disciplined to an utmost need, in the moment of his unnatural persuasion that insensibility greatest peril. It flatters its votaries till was the highest virtue. In many more they find themselves in the presence of it was mere dissatisfaction with life; in the king of terrors; and then their false others an entire disbelief of the reality of friend laughs them to scorn, and departs,

leaving them to the faith of despair-the, which render death really formidable, and faith of demons, who believe and tremble. which invest it with peculiar terrors. Hume, indeed, affected stoical uncon- Christianity supplies all that knowledge cern-he could joke: but it was not a which, as a dependent, accountable, comedy that was enacted in his dying guilty, and dying creature, is necessary chamber—it was a deeper tragedy than to make me happy; it supplies all the earth has often witnessed. Tranquillity principles which in their direct tendency and infidelity are not natural allies—and raise me above the fear, the agony, and in death they cannot meet. For, if we consequences of death; it furnishes me suppose that the infidel wavers, and that with superadded support, in the divine scepticism places him in equilibrio be consolations which it ever holds in retween the opposite decisions of faith and serve as a cordial for the fainting spirit unbelief, what terrible apprehensions in the dying hour. must be the consequence. It may, after In whatever view we contemplate all, be true, that religion that he has death, the gospel is its mighty and infal. impugned; that Jesus, whom he has lible antidote. Is it a natural evil? it is blasphemed, may, after all, be the Son of compensated by an endless life. Is it the God; and that hell, he so often despised consequence of the Divine displeasure? as a figment of the brain, may turn out it is mitigated by a revelation of the to be no less than an everlasting reality. Divine mercy. Is it the penalty of sin? But let us take another supposition, that the gospel proclaims pardon and salvathe unbeliever possesses in his own mind tion through the blood of atonement. Is a full assurance of the truth of his prin- it the subject of instinctive dread and ciples. This very assurance must greatly terror? the gospel altogether changes its augment the natural terrors of death. If character. Under its influence it becomes infidelity be true, that this life is our not only a conquered foe, but a most only possession, and this world our all, munificent benefactor. It wears a hea

set an infinite value upon both. On these heart with terror it quietly lulls it into a principles death comes, not only to rob sweet repose. Such is the tendency of us of life, but of being. But the future, Christianity, and such, too, is its chief the dread future, the Bible is no longer design. But in order to this, it must be a book, its truths are living realities, its embraced, it must form the character; revelations visions of hell and eternity. its doctrines and principles must be emOne who until his last illness boasted of bodied in the life; it must, in fact, behis infidelity, exclaimed, struggling in come religion-a personal distinction as death, “That there is a God I know, well as a doctrinal system. because I feel his wrath ; that there is a In describing the influence of religion hell I am certain, having received the (or Christianity thus understood) in death, dreadful earnest of my inheritance here." | it is requisite we should ascertain what “I give,” says Hobbes, “my body to the we mean by religion, or wherein it condust; and my soul to the great perhaps ; sists. By religion we do not wish you I am going to take a leap in the dark.” | to understand the mere connection with “I am abandoned of God and man" was any particular church or visible form of the bitter experience of Voltaire when he Christianity. If Christianity be a Divine yielded up the ghost.

revelation, fitted to the wants of man, From these miserable comforters we and the only system which teaches him turn to the gospel, and fearlessly main- how he may obtain acceptance with God, tain, that Christianity, sincerely em- then nothing short of the full effect of braced, and exerting its uncontracted in the gospel upon a human soul can fit fluence in forming the character, sub- that soul for its eternal change. Religion, dues and annihilates those considerations as constituting the grand distinction of human character, implies three things : Oh, if my Lord would come and meet, illumination of mind,-it supposes the

My soul shall stretch her wings in haste;

Fly fearless through death's iron gate, knowledge of the principle and rule of

Nor feel the terror as she pass'd."" duty, with its motives, relations, objects, and ends; it further implies renovation

But we may take a more direct view of heart--this Divine change is indis- of the influence of religion in death; and pensable; it also implies practical grow- ) we observe, ing and habitual conformity to the Divine That it is exerted in rendering death standard as it regards the faith which the consummating act of obedience-not believes, the hope which anticipates, and only the last of a series but the crowning the operation of both in the whole round act. Religion irradiates the last scene of of Divine and human obligations, prompt- a believer with the graces and virtues ing to a universal and upright obedience. | peculiarly suited to its awful solemnity.

The influence of this religion in death In death religion has to exert its power will be proportioned to its light, its over a new train of circumstances. It vigour, its spirituality and activity at shuts up the scenes of one world, and the moment when the awful season ar- opens to the enraptured view the glories rives. Where it thus exists and triumphs

of another. The immortal rises with in the soul, death cannot surprise ; for vigour as the mortal sinks into decay. such surprise is nearly connected with "Oh,” said one, (a youth aged only alarm, and “Thou wilt keep him in per twenty-one years,) when conflicting with fect peace whose heart is stayed on thee.” | the last enemy, “when I have most pain In such a spiritual and heavenly state of in my body I have most comfort in my mind, death cannot obscure the glories soul. What is all that I have gone and blessedness of the celestial world. It through to what Christ suffered when he, cannot even interrupt the communion of in the extremity of his pain, cried, I the soul with its God, or suspend for a thirst?' he had none but enemies about moment bis paternal care and all-suffi- him, and they gave him vinegar to drink; cient consolations. Death forms no break but when I am thirsty every one is conin the course, the comfort, the joy, and triving the most salutary and pleasant the energy of the Christian's life,—that draught for me. I would not exchange life which is bid with Christ in God. condition with the greatest monarch in “ The Lord,” says Mr. Jay, “is with his the world. I do not doubt but that there people in every state-he never leaves is love in the bottom of this cup; it is them nor forsakes them; but, he is pe- bitter in the mouth. However, for all culiarly with them in trouble, and he is that, I would not go a moment before most peculiarly with them in this trouble. God's time is fully come; and I am sure In none do they need it so much; for if that when all is over I shall adore the he is not with us then, we must be alone. mercy and the wisdom of this dispensaEvery other connection then leaves us;

tion." if he is not with us there, we sink; for As death is the immediate precursor of every other dependence on which we judgment, and comes with all the stern. have leaned then fails us; and if, in other ness of an officer of justice, it is natural cases, the child of God cries with Moses, for conscience to take the alarm, and for

If thy presence go not with me, take guilt to put on all its terror; but here me not from hence,' with what awful simplicity of dependence on the infinite anxiety will he ask after this conductor merits of Christ, and a personal persuawhen he comes to the entrance of the sion of our interest in his atoning blood, dark valley and looks in. In this position, which are the appropriate virtues of a the sweet singer in our British Israel Christian's death, interpose to silence represents the believer, and puts this conscience and to set the soul at perfect language into his trembling lips : rest. Apostles confessed and martyrs felt this: “I know whom I have be- Every age, and every church, and lieved.” This is the great secret of every Christian family, have furnished peace, and happiness, and triumph in instances of the power of religion in death. But there is a natural terror in death, of a character quite as high-toned death; and how is this overcome by re- and spiritual as any of those we have ligion? The love of Christ, and the ma. now quoted; and it would be astonishing nifestation of Christ to the soul, are its | if the stream of evidence had flown in effectual antidotes; and by these, death the opposite direction. Then, indeed, we has not only been conquered, but has might have questioned the efficacy of the been trampled upon with a triumphant and gospel, which would have amounted to a exulting disdain. "O Death, where is denial, or, at least, a doubt of its divinity. thy sting? O Grave, where is thy vic- We are quite aware, however, that tory?" This has been the inspired an- there are peculiar cases which are supthem of many a departing spirit. An- posed to militate against this argument, other evil natural to death, and which but which, in truth, are in perfect haroften appals the dying sinner, is the mony with it. The first class is of those darkness in which it wraps the soul and triumphant deaths that have not been enshrouds the future. But over this preceded by a course of religious habit darkness of the shadow of death, religion and actions, but are the consequence of sheds her hallowed and blessed illumina- sudden and late repentance. Such cases tion, pervading all its deep recesses with must be rare where they are genuine; the glories of an everlasting day. “Oh because they are exceptions to the general glory, how delightful in contemplation,” procedure of the Divine government, and exclaimed an excellent servant of Jesus must be resolved into special sovereignty; when dying. “Death is but a bridge, and in this view they are not the opproa step, when I look on the land of glory brium but the glory of Christianity. In on the other side. Come, Lord Jesus, the majority of instances, we fear they come quickly; make no long tarrying, are the effect of a delusion fostered by O my God;" and soon after she closed folly operating on the credulity of guilt. her eyes and saw her God. It is said of The next class is of those who die without holy Brainerd, that from time to time, terror or apprehension, who have made at the several new symptoms of his dis- no profession of religion, who live without solution, he was so far from being dis- God, die without repentance, and yet couraged, that he seemed to be animated, hope for heaven. These cases must be as being glad at the appearances of resolved into ignorance, or scepticism, or death's approach. He often used the stupidity, or the influence of opiates. epithet glorious, when speaking of the Their tranquil mode of dying is no eviday of his death, calling it that glorious dence of the safety of their state. A man day. Another Christian, after a lingering walking upon a precipice is not secure illness, and drawing near the borders of because he is ignorant of his situation; Immanuel's land, being asked how she but this ignorance keeps him easy, and did, replied, “Almost at home. My laughing, and singing, till he falls off; precious Bible, true every tittle. I never and thus we are told of the wicked, that thought it could have supported me thus. they have no bands in their death, and But it does. I never thought I could their strength is firm. The last class of have enjoyed so much. I have not an exceptions is of those deaths that have anxious wish. It is heaven already be- been gloomy and comfortless, and yet gun. I am happy as I can be on this have been preceded by a religious proside heaven.

fession. These instances may arise even

where religion is sincere and genuine. A mortal paleness on my check, From imperfect knowledge of the nature But glory in my soul.'”

of justification; and an imperfect reliance

on the merits of the Redeemer; from man who has walked and lived in close a morbid influence, as in the case of fellowship with God? You know that Cowper; and from a lamentable incon- what I say is true. His wife interrupted sistency and irregular progress in religion. me. “But he had been an excellent man.'

" to visit a sincere man, who had been hur- all true.' ried too much with the world. I find In further confirmation of the propono comfort,' said he; “God veils his face sition we have thus far maintained, we from me. Everything around me is dark may add the impartial testimony of the and uncertain.' I did not dare to act the enemies of religion. Many a Balaam flatterer. I said, Let us look faithfully has said, “Let me die the death of the into the state of things. I should have righteous, and let my last end be like been gurprised if you had not felt thus. his." “ Their rock is not our rock, the I believe you to be sincere. Your state enemies themselves being judges." The of feelings evinces your sincerity. Had power of the gospel in death, which is I found you exulting in God, I should uniform in all cases where the truth as it have concluded that you were either de- is in Jesus is sincerely embraced, invests ceived or a deceiver. For, while God it with a superhuman character. It is aets in his usual order, how could you true of nothing else. Its Author claims expect to feel otherwise on the approach | divinity for himself and his mission, of death than you do feel? You have on this special ground, that he destroys driven hard after the world ; your spirit death and him that hath the power of has been absorbed in its cares; your sen- death. If this be " a faithful saying," timents, your conversation, have been in and who can disprove it?—then “is it the spirit of the world. · And have you worthy of all acceptation." any reason to expect the response of Foleshill.

J. S, conscience, and the clear evidence of the

A BAD SPECULATION; OR, PRAYERS FOR THE DEAD AND

PRAYERS TO THE SAINTS USELESS. We often read of prayers being offered 3. Jeremiah prayed in the dungeon, by living saints to the living God, and in when his feet sunk in the mire, and God very remarkable places too; all of which heard his prayer, and brought him up received a gracious answer: but the only out of the dungeon, and set a black man prayer offered to a saint for the dead to take care of him. God can employ was a dead miss-a complete failure. any instrument he pleases to bring an Take the following examples :

answer to his people's prayers. 1. Jonah prayed in the whale's belly, 4. Paul and Silas prayed to God in the and God heard his cry, and regarded his prison, with their feet made fast in the supplication, and caused the fish to vomit stocks, and God came down and shook the praying prophet on dry land. Who the prison to its foundations, then threw would ever despair of prayer to God being open the prison doors, frightened the answered after that?

jailor almost out of his wits, and gave 2. Nehemiah prayed in the palace of a the praying men even more than they heathen king; almost as unlikely a place prayed for. for devotion as a whale's belly. But 5. The dying thief prayed on the cross ; there, in the midst of the courtiers, while and Jesus heard his 'cry, and saved his the company were at dinner, he prayed soul, and took him to paradise. to the God of heaven, and God gave him These are cheering instances of the the desire of his heart. No place is un-efficacy of prayer. Our hearts love to suitable for prayer if the heart be right. dwell upon them. We feel that we can

« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »