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THE CHU RC Н.
“Built upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets Jesus Christ
himself being the chief corner-stone."-Eph.ii.20.
FRAGMENTARY NOTES OF VILLAGE SERMONS.
BY TUE REV. JOHN FOSTER.
“All flesh is grass.”—Isaiah xl. 6. Perhaps there is no one in this assembly, who has not seen a figure of time as an old man with a scythe, as it garnishes many children's books, and nothing can be a more apt emblem of the sweeping effects of time. What has he been cutting down ? His crops are human beings. When I look at the fields which have been mown, I can instantly tell what the mowers have cut off. A short time since there was tall grass. Now what is there? What are accounted the noblest things that grow on the earth ? Oaks ? wheat? beasts? birds ? Perhaps man. What has become of a vast multitude of them ? Ancient nations ? Romans? Prophets ? Our fathers not long since ? Time has mown them down. Let us take a view of the individuals composing mankind, and examine their ideas on the subject before us,-“All flesh is grass.” What will the young man say to this ? What the strong ? What the healthy? What those who love the earth so much ? What the vain, the proud, the selfimportant? What those who live and care for nothing but the flesh ? What those who expect no future spring ? What the aged person ? "All flesh is grass." Who thinks so? Who remembers it? Who is prepared for the scythe of time? Those who have this season cut down the grass ? those who have managed it while withering ? those who have walked through the fields? In our various walks we must have observed the grass grow, in the verdure of spring, waving in the breezes, which may be compared to the state of youth. In our next walk we may have observed it advancing to maturity, which may represent adult man. Repeating our visit, the fields may be ripe for the sickle, and grown white with age; man too becomes snowed and frosted over with years. In a subsequent perambulation we may see the scythe passing through it, it is mown and flat on the earth; thus man is reduced by disease and the weight of years, loaded with infirmities and woes. Sweep after sweep; in a few days the crop withers and becomes a faded heap ; thus man decays. Again, sometime it is carried off the field, the ground is clear of it; so man is carried to his long home. Some forget the resemblance,
and think all men rather cedars and oaks than grass; or that they themselves are firm trees, while others partake of all the frailty of grass. Though they see that death is no respecter of persons, yet neither the young, the middle aged, nor the old seem to have any idea of their im. pending fate; they boast of their vigour, health, and qualifications, and though friends and neighbours fall around them, few look home and make death the frequent subject of their contemplations. “All men think all men mortal but themselves;” like a bird building its nest in the grass. “All flesh is grass,”_yet seek not to make any interest with spirits;_"all,”-and, therefore, if there is one distinguished a little above the rest, he is famous like a tree, an oak, an elm, or a cedar. But all fall indiscriminately. Again, among grass thistles and weeds too often abound. So among men there are individuals who, like thistles, seem calculated only to outrage and irritate society. But then is there no more than “flesh ?" Are we all nothing but “grass ?” Is there no account taken of us? Is it then a sad thing to be cut down by the scythe of time or death? The allusion of the text is certainly very happy, and a field of grass is a very apt illustration of the state of humanity. Let us, then, further trace the resemblance.
“Grass” is fairest when young, of various forms and sizes, bearing at the same time a general resemblance. The sound caused by grass waving in the wind may be likened to the vain, busy, bustling, restless activity of man in a state of society, tossed to and fro by various pursuits and jarring interests, seldom tranquil, generally in commotion, of feeble force, so that anything may either bend or crush it. Maturity is soon attained. It is subject to all the influences of the seasons,mall growing but to die,-cut off without distinction of the various ages, sizes, &c.,unable also to remove from the fatal stroke when it does come-and loses all its beauty when dead. It is added, “all the glory of man is as the flower of grass.” Look over a field, you see flowers, red, yellow, white, blue. These are distinguished from common grass, and as the herbage is mixed with various tints, so hụmanity is chequered with hopeful and beautiful prospects. Perhaps you look more at some remarkable flower than at one of common grass, almost sorry to destroy so fair and rare a flower. But it would fade of itself if even the scythe could spare it. So man; some attain distinguished notice, while common mortals are neglected. The beauty of the fairest floral gem withers though not cut down, "the flower fadeth.” Eminent rank, singular good fortune (as it is called), amiable qualities, and shining powers, these all fall. Behold the impartial mower Death, he mows clean; a good mower never leaves this year's grass to another year. So death takes off each age, entire, away. Yet some escape long. As a mower sometimes misses a few blades about the edges and bushes for a while, but returns at last at his leisure and cuts these down also; so some men seem as if Death had overlooked them, they advance to or perhaps beyond a hundred years, but at last the observant mower casts his eye upon them, and they too
My friends I am sorry if there be another point of resemblance which may be applied to this or any other congregation—that man is, like grass, insensible; the grass is quite unconscious of its doom, and thinks not about it. So it is with us. Are we as insensible ? How foolish for any one to go and preach to a field of grass ! and say, “Oh, grass, prepare for thy fate; in a few more days thou must be laid low in the ground, and after withering and decaying must be conveyed from thy present situation !” But does not a preacher to men do much the same? The time will assuredly come when the ground will be clear of us; we shall be more properly like that grass which lies withered, dead, sunk into the ground and become dust! | How happy among this grass the plants of grace! They too shall fall; but it is a short death. They shall be taken by angels and planted in the paradise above !
DAYS OF VISITATION.
BY THE REV. W. WALTERS.
The event referred to in this passage was the invasion of Israel by a foreign foe. There is no cause for us to apprehend a similar event. There is not much probability that as a nation we shall be exposed to the assaults and cruelties of invading armies. Yet, though we may not be visited by troops of armed men, and all the evils inseparable from war, there are days of visitation awaiting us all. We shall enumerate a few.
1. There is the day of afflictive providences.
We know not how soon it may come, in what form it may appear. It may be to us a day of temporal losses. Our hold on earthly good is very feeble and uncertain. We possess it one moment, we may lose it the next. Through depression of trade the poor may be deprived of employment and the means of subsistence. Through the failure of a mercantile firm or a banking company, the richer may lose their wealth and means of future emolument. Long continued rain or an undue season of drought, may destroy the fruits of the earth and disappoint us of the desired weeks of harvest, and thus famine may visit a whole population. Providential workings which defy all our attempts to explain and settle, may thwart our purposes of advancement and take away our entire substance.
We are sometimes visited by the day of family bereavements. A slender and brittle tie binds us to our friends. In a time when we think not of it we may lose them,-even the most valued and the best beloved, -those for whom we most care and who care most for us,—those whose loss may create a blank, a chasm in our heart which no other earthly being can fill up. You have followed to the grave some already whose existence was so interwoven with your own, whose counsels and sympa. thies seemed so necessary to your happiness, that in their absence earth seems a very desert, cheerless and charmless. No flowers bloom along your pathway as in pensiveness you wander, and no light save that of hope smiles upon your soul.
The day of personal affliction not unfrequently visits us Diseases of unnumbered kinds exist, any one of which has power enough to cast down the strongest of earth's sons. The burning fever may light up a fire within which shall be quenched only in the dampness of death. Consumption, with slow and stealthy step, may approach and imperceptibly though surely hasten our end. Apoplexy or paralysis may in an instant reduce the robust and mighty to the helplessness of an infant. Time would fail us to recount one half of the maladies which distress our race, which weaken the strong, deface the beautiful, sadden the gay, dim the light of the eye, brush off the cheek's bloom, and make the spirits of men sigh within them for that land where there shall be no more pain.
In the day of God's afflictive providence what will you do? Will you harden yourselves against the Lord ? Will you complain and murmur at his will ? Will you attempt to justify yourselves and impeach the Almighty ? Will you not rather humble yourselves under his hand ? Will you not confess the wisdom and kindness of his ways ? Will you not learn, difficult though they may be, the lessons of self-abasement and patience which his dispensations teach ? As you lose property will you not rejoice in the thought that the riches of God's love in Jesus Christ still remain, and the heavenly inheritance abideth ever ? As you sustain bereavement will you not rejoice in the assurance that friends who have passed into rest still live,—that a day of blissful reunion will presently dawn,-and that in the society of the Eternal Father you and those whose loss you deplore will spend the endless ages of the future ? As you sink beneath the power of disease, as you writhe in agony, will you not recollect your sins ? Will you not seek a sanctified use of your affic. tions? Will you not remember that they are evidences of your sonship, and expressions of your Father's love? Will you not comfort yourselves with the truth that these light afflictions, which are but for a moment, work out for you a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory?
2. The day of death as a day of visitation remains for us all.
The Scriptures assure us, and all past history has confirmed the statement, that we must needs die.” Heralds are constantly proclaiming the approach of the king of terrors. Pioneers are ever preparing his way. When the thought of death rises up and in spite of the bustle of the world without, and the noise of stormy passions within, makes itself intelligible and utters itself in a warning voice, we dare not hazard a denial. We may disregard it. We may say, “Go thy way for this time;" but we never say, “ Thou liest.”
How this day will visit us, what will be its attendant circumstances, where it will find us, and how engaged, we know not. Perhaps as we walk the street, or stand at our post of business, or work in the mill, or sit at the fire-side, or lie on our bed. When it will come we know not. Perchance to day, or twenty years hence. The manner and the time are alike uncertain.' This very uncertainty, instead of being (as, alas, it too often is !) abused, gives the event a deeper solemnity, and urges to immediate preparation. No act of yours can avert or postpone the day. There is nothing in your condition so peculiar as to render you an exception to the general rule. You boast in strength, in symmetry, in beauty, in youth. The strong, the symmetrical, the beautiful, the young, are among the trophies of death. And shortly, as you descend into the grave, voices from all quarters will salute you" (the voices of those who were once as you are now), “Art thou also become weak as we ? art thou become like unto us? the worm is spread under thee, and the worms cover thee.”
What will you do in this day of visitation ? Will you send for the gay to soothe you with wit and song ? Will you invite your companions to share in the luxuries of the festive board? Will you enquire into the state of the markets, and the prices of shares ? Will you canker your heart with the cares of a world on which you are closing your eyes for ever? What will you do, friend? Will you not hail the approach of the messenger? Will you not thank God that an end has come at last to the toils and sins of earth? Will you not, in the presence of friends and brethren, deliver parting counsels, and speak of the joys that are in reserve ? As the world recedes from beneath you, will you not plant your feet on the Rock of Ages ? Will you not utter as your last prayer, “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace”? and sing as your last hymn on earth, “Death is swallowed up in victory”? How delightful, thus to spend the “day of visitation !”
3. We remark once more, there is the day of general judgment.
The word of God declares that there is a day coming when we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ. The great white throne is to be erected. And before Him who shall sit on it are to be gathered all nations. He will examine the lives, and pronounce the destiny of all. They who now sow to the flesh, shall then of the flesh reap corruption; and they who now sow to the Spirit, shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. This day will come to us. Sometimes we talk about the day of judgment as some marvellous period in the distant future; we speak of the mighty and magnificent preparations which shall be made for it, of the untold millions which shall stand at the bar, of the splendour and august appearance of the tribunal, of the immense results which shall follow upon the decisions of the Judge,-and, amid all this greatness and grandeur, we forget that we shall be there, there, not as idle spectators or curious lookers-on-but there, as parties deeply interested in the pro. ceedings,-as much so as any other individual in that vast throng. The day will come as much on our account as if we were the only persons to be tried; and our actions will be sifted, and our whole life laid bare as thoroughly as if the Judge had to pronounce on us alone.
What will you do in this day? Will you cry to the rocks and the hills to cover you from the face of Him that sitteth on the throne ? Will you approach the bar with trembling knees and downcast look? Will you curse the day of your birth ? As you look on Him whom you have pierced, will you wail because of him? Or, will you shout with the redeemed, “Lo, this is our God, we have waited for him, and he will save us; this is the Lord, we have waited for him, we will rejoice and be glad in his salvation”? and, in obedience to the invitation of your Judge, “inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” ?
4. A day of visitation is now upon you. It is the day of God's mercy.
You live in its noon. What are you doing? Are you devoting it to its legitimate use ? Have you trusted in Christ? Are you labouring in his cause? Are you seeking the glory of God? Let your trust in Jesus be more simple and strong. Let your love to him be more ardent. Let your labours be more numerous. Let your zeal burn not like a flickering taper, but like the meridian sun. Hear what the Master saith, “Work while it is called to day.” Seek strength from the cross, while faith points for encouragement to heaven.
LORD, WHAT WILT THOU HAVE ME TO DO? It cannot but be painful to intelligent christian minds, that some professors of the christian religion should be so much influenced by predilections and prejudices, and pay so much attention to minor theological differences, to the neglect in the heart, of real spiritual culture, and in the life, of the true manifestations of the living principles of their religion. Christianity, with many, seems to have reference only to something to be believed, and to have no reference at all to anything to be done, to be destitute of the power to prompt, or to enable its possessor to perform, any distinctive action,-to be anything but what it is, a moulder of the souls of men, an exterminator of the bad, and a cultivator of the good, principles of its recipients,-a regenerator and a regulator of the actions of those who come under its influence. For whilst faith in Christ and in the doctrines of his religion should be exercised, work for Christ should not be neglected. The former is what should be done, and the latter what should not be left undone.