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cence, by eloquent gratitude for testamenta-l inquiry, • Are there few that be saved,' he ry favours.
thus checked vain curiosity- Strive (you) It is an amiable though not a correct feel- to enter in at the strait gate.' On another ing in human nature, that, fancying we have occasion, in the same spirit, he corrected not done justice to certain characters during inquisitiveness, not by an answer, but by an their lives, we run into the error of suppo- interrogation and a precept - What is that sed compensation by over estimating them to thee? Follow thou me.' after their decease.
But where there is strong ground to apOn account of neighbourhood, affinity, prebend that the contrary may have been long acquaintance, or some pleasing quali- the case, it is very dangerous to pronounce ties, we may have entertained a kindness peremptorily on the safety of the dead. Befor many persons, of whose state however, cause if we allow ourselves to be fully perwhile they lived, we could not with the ut- suaded that they are entered upon a state of most stretch of charity think favourably. happiness, it will naturally and fatally tempt If their sickness has been long and severe, us to lower our own standard. If we are our compassion having been kept by that ready to conclude that they are now in a circumstance in a state of continued excite- state of glory whose principles we believed ment, though we lament their death, yet we to be incorrect, whose practice, to say the feel thankful that their suffering is at an end. least of it, we know to have been negligent, Forgetting our former opinion, and the who, without our indulging a censorious or a course of life on which it was framed, we presumptuous spirit, we thouglit lived in a fall into all the common-place of consola- state of mind, and a course of habits, not ontion,-'God is merciful-we trust that they ly far from right, but even avowedly inferior are at rest—what a happy release they have to our own; will not this lead to the conhad !'-Nay, it is well if we do not go so far clusion, either that we ourselves, standing as to entertain a kind of vague belief that on so much higher ground, are in a very their better qualities joined to their suffer- advanced state of grace, or that a much ings have, on the whole, ensured their feli-| lower than ours may be a state of safety ? city.
And will not such a belief tend to slacken Thus at once losing sight of that word of our endeavours, and to lower our tone, both God which cannot lie, of our former regrets of faith and practice ? on their subject, losing the remembrance of By this conclusion we contradict the aftheir defective principles and thoughtless fecting assertion of a very sublime poet, conduct; without any reasonable ground
For us they sicken and for us they die. for altering our opinion, any pretence for entertaining a better hope-we assume that for while we are thus taking and giving they are happy. We reason as it we be- false comfort our friend as to us will have lieved that the suffering of the body had died in vain. Instead of his death having purchased the salvation of the soul, as if it operated as a warning voice, to rouse us to had rendered any doubt almost criminal. a more animated piety, it will be rather We seem to make ourselves easy on the likely to lull us into a dangerous security. falsest ground imaginable, not because we If our affection has so blinded our judge believe their hearts were changed, but be- ment, we shall by a false candour to anocause they are now beyond all possibility of ther, sink into a false peace ourselves. change.
| It will be a wounding circumstance to the But surely the merecircumstance of death feelings of surviving friendship, to see a perwill not have rendered them fit for that son of loose habits, whom though we love, heaven for which we before feared they yet we feared to admonish, and that because were unfit. Far be it from us, indeed, blind we loved him ; for whom, though we saw and sinful as we are, to pass sentence upon his danger, yet perhaps we neglected to them, to pass sentence upon any. We dare pray ; to see him brought to that ultimate not venture to pronounce what may have and fixed state in which admonition is impassed between God and their souls, even at possible, in which prayer is not only fruitthe last hour. We know that infinite mer- less, but unlawful. cy is not restricted to times or seasons; to an Another distressing circumstance freearly or a late repentance : we know not but quentiy occurs. We meet with affectionate in that little interval their peace was made, but irreligious parents, who though kind and their pardon granted, through the atoning perhaps amiable, have neither lived themblood, and powerful intercession of their selves, nor educated their families in ChrisRedeemer. Nor should we too scrupulous-tian principles, nor in habits of Christian ly pry into the state of others, never, indeed, piety. A child at the age of maturity dies, except to benefit them or ourselves ; we Deep is the affliction of the doting parent. should ratherimitate the example of Christ, The world is a blark. He looks round for who at once gave an admirable lesson of comfort wiere he has been accustomed to meekness and charitable jucgment, when look for it among his friends. He finds it avoiding an answer which might have led to not. He looks up for it where he has not fruitless discussion, he gave a reproof under been accustomed to seek it. Neither his the shape of an exhortation.-In reply to the heart nor his treasure has been laid up in
heaven. Yet a paroxysm, of what may be Thus the flashes of religion which darted termed natural devotion, gives to his grief an in upon their conscience in the first burst of air of piety. The first cry of anguish is sorrow, too frequently die away ; they excommonly religious.
pire before the grief which kindled them. The lamented object perhaps, through it. They resort again to their old resource, the ter ignorance of the awful gulf which was world, which if it cannot soon heal their soropening to receive him, added to a tranquil row, at least soon diverts it. temper, might have expired without evin- To shut our eyes upon death as an object cing any great distress, and his happy death of terror or of hope, and to consider it only is industriously proclaimed through the as a release or an extinction, is viewing it neighbourhood, and the mourning parents under a character which is not its own. But have only to wish that their latter end may to get rid of the idea at any rate, and then be like his. They cheat at once their sor- | boast that we do not tear the thing we do not row and their souls, with the soothing no- think of is not difficult. Nor is it difficult tion that they shall soon meet their beloved to think of it without alarm if we do not inchild in Heaven. Of this they persuade clude its consequences. But to him who frethemselves as firmly and as fondly, as if quently repeats, not mechanically but deboth they and the object of their grief had voutly, we know that THOU shalt come to been living in the way which leads thither. be our Judge,' death cannot be a matter of Oh, for that unbought treasure, a sincere, a indifference. real friend, who might lay hold on the pro- Another cause of these happy deaths is pitious moment! When the heart is sof-that many think salvation a slight thing, that tened by sorrow, it might possibly, if ever, heaven is cheaply obtained, that a merciful be led to its true remedy. This would in- God is easily pleased, that we are Christians, deed be a more unequivocal, because more and that mercy comes of course to those painful act of friendship than pouring in the who have always professed to believe that lulling opiate of false consolation, which we Christ died to purchase it for them. This are too ready to adıninister, because it saves notion of God being more merciful than he our own feelings, while it sooths, without has any where declared himself to be, inhealing, those of the mourner.
stead of inspiring them with more gratitude But perhaps the integrity of the friend to him, inspires more confidence in themconquers his timidity. Alas! he is honestly selves. This corrupt faith generates a corexplicit to unattending or to offended ears, rupt morality. It leads to this strange con
They refuse to hear the voice of the char- sequence, not to make them love God betmer. But if the mourners will not endure ter, but to venture on offending him more. the voice of exhortation now, while there is People talk as it the act of death made a hope, how will they endure the sound of the complete change in the nature, as well as in last trumpet when hope is at an end ? If the condition of man. Death is the vehicle they will not bear the gentle whisper of to another state of being, but possesses no friendship, how will they bear the voice of power to qualify us for that state. In conthe accusing angel, the terrible sentence of veying us to a new world it does not give us the incensed Judge? If private reproof be a new heart. It puts the unalterable stamp intolerable, how will they stand the being of decision on the character, but does not made a spectacle to angels and to men, even transform it into a character diametrically to the whole assembled universe, to the oppusite. whole creation of God?
Our affections themselves will be rather But instead of converting the friendly raised than altered. Their tendencies will warning to their eternal benefit, they are be the same, though their advancement will probably wholly bent on their own vindica- be incomparably higher. They will be extion. Still their character is dearer to them alted in their degree, but not changed in than their soul. “We never,' say they, their nature. They will be purified from all
were any man's enemy,' Yes—you have earthly mixtures, cleansed from all human been the enemy of all to whom you have pollutions, the principle will be cleared fron given a bad example. You have especially lits imperfections, but it will not become anbeen the enemy to your children in whom other principle. He that is uuholy will not you have implanted no christian principles, be made holy by death. The heart will not Still they insist with the prophet that there have a new object to seek, but will be die is no iniquity in them that can be called ini- rected more intensely to the same object. quity.'. We have wronged no one,' say They who love God here will love him far they, we have given to every one his due. more in heaven, because they will know bim We have done our duty,' Your first duty far better. There he will reign without a was to God. You have robbed your Maker competitor. They who served him here ia of the service due to Him. You have rob- sincerity will there serve him in perfection bed your Redeemer of the souls he died to It 'the pure in heart shall see God,' let us save. You have robbed your own soul and remember that this purity is not to be contoo probably the souls of those whom you tracted a ter we have been admitted toits rehave so wretchedly educated, of eternal hap- inuneration. The beatitude is pledged as a piness.
I reward for the purity, not as a qualification for it. Purity will be sublimated in heaven, 1 point of view, therefore, the same necessity but will not begin to be produced there. It for being religious subsists when we are in is to be acquired by passing through the re- full health as when we are about to die, finer's fire here, not through the penal and We may then fairly arrive at this conexpiatory fire which human ingenuity de-clusion, that there is no happy death but vised to purge offending man
that which conducts to a happy immortali
ty :-No joy in putting off the body, if we From the foul deeds done in his days of nature.
have not put on the Lord Jesus Christ ;The extricated spirit will be separated from No consolation in escaping from the miseries the feculence of all that belongs to sin, to of time, till we have obtained a well grounsense, to self. We shall indeed find our ded hope of a blessed eternity, selves new, because spiritualized beings; but if the cast of the mind were not in a great measure the same, how should we retain our identity? The soul will there be
CHAP. XX. come that which it here desired to be, that which it mourned because it was so far from On the Sufferings of Good Men. being. It will have obtained that complete victory over its corruptions which it here AFFLICTION is the school in which great only desired, which it here only struggled virtues are acquired, in which great characto obtain.
ters are formed. It is a kind of moral Here our love of spiritual things is super-Gymnassium, in which the disciples of induced, there it will be our natural frame. Christ are trained to robust exercise, hardy The impression of God on our hearts will be exertion, and severe conflict, stamped deeper, but it will not be a different We do not hear of martial heroes in the impression. Our obedience will be more calm and piping time of peace,'nor of the voluntary, because there will be no rival most eminent saints in the quiet and unmopropensities to obstruct it. It will be more lested periods of ecclesiastical history. We entire, because it will have to struggle with are far from denying that the principle of no counteracting force. Here we sincerely courage in the warrior, or of piety in the though impertectly love the law of God, even saint continues to subsist, ready to be though it controuls our perverse will, though brought into action when perils beset the it contradicts our corruptions. There our country or trials assail the church ; but it love will be complete, because our will will must be allowed that in long periods of in
will be done away.
| The Christian, in our comparatively tranRepentance, precious at all seasons, in the quil day, is happily exempt from the trials season of health is noble. It is a generous and the terrors which the annals of persecuprinciple when it overtakes us surrounded tion record. Thanks to the establishment with the prosperities of life, when it is not of a pure Christianity in the church, thanks put off till distress drives us to it. Serious to the infusion of the same pure principle ness of spirit is most acceptable to God into our laws, and to the mild and tolerating when danger is out of sight, preparations spirit of both-a man is so far from being for death when death appears to be at a dis- liable to pains and penalties for his attach
ment to his religion, that he is protected in Virtue and piety are founded on the na- its exercise ; and were certain existing stature of things, on the laws of God, not on tutes enforced, he would even iucur penalany vicissitudes in human circumstances. ties for his violation of religious duties, raIrreligion, folly and vice, are just as unrea-ther than for his observance of them. *'. sonable in the meridian of life as at the ap- Yet still the Christian is not exempt from proach of death. They strike us different-his individual, his appropriate, his undefined ly but they always retain their own charac-trials. We refer not merely to those cruel ter. Every argument against an irreligious mockings,'which the acute sensibility of the death is equally cogent against an irreligious apostle led him to rank in the same catalife. Piety and penitence may be quicken-logue with bonds, imprisonments, exile and ed by the near view of death, but the reasons martyrdom itself. We allude not altofor practising them are not founded on its gether to those misrepresentations and canearness. Death may stimulate our fears lumnies to which the zealous Christian is for the consequences of vice, but furnishes peculiarly liable; nor exclusively to those no motive for avoiding it, which Christianity difficulties to which his very adherence to had not taught betore. The necessity of re- the principles he professes, must necessariligion is as urgent now as it will be when wely subject him ; nor entirely to those occaare dying. It may not appear so, but the sional sacrifices of credit, of advancement, reality of a thing does not depend on appear of popular applause, to which his refusing ances. Besides, if the necessity of being re- to sail with the tide of popular opinion may ligious depended on the approach of death, what moment of our lives is there, in which we allude to the laws against swearing, attending we have any security against it? In every public worship, &c.
compel him ; nor solely to the disadvantages luntary pain, however necessary the inflicwhich under certain circumstances his not tion, however salutary the effect. God grapreferring expediency to principle may ex- ciously does this for us himself, or he knows pose him. But the truly good man is not it would never be done, only often called to struggle with trials of A Christian is liable to the same sorrows large dimensions, with exigencies of obvi- and sufferings with other men : he has no ous difficulty, but to encounter others which where any promise of immunity from the are better understood than defined.
troubles of life, but he has a merciful pro
mise of support under them. He considers Apd duller would he be than the fat weed
them in another view, he bears them with Tbat rots itself at ease on Letbe's wharf,
another spirit, he improves them to other
purposes than those whose views are boundwere he left to batten undisturbed, in peace-led by this world. Whatever may be the ful security, on the unwholesome pastures of linstruments of his sufferings, whether sickrank prosperity. The thick exhalations
ons ness, losses, calumnies, persecutions, he drawn up from this gross soil render the at- I knows that it proceeds from God; all means mosphere so heavy as to obstruct the ascent are his instruments. All inferior causes of piety, her flagging pinions are kept down
operate by his directing hand. by the influence of this moist vapour; she is
"We said that a Christian is liable to the prevented from soaring,
same sufferings with other men. Might we
not repeat what we have before said, that to live insphered
his very Christian profession is often the In regions mild of calm and serene air,
cause of his sufferings? They are the badge Above the smoke and stir of this dim spot
of his discipleship, the evidences of his FaWhich men call earth.
ther's love; they are at once the marks of The pampered Christian thus continual- God's favour, and the materials of his own lv gravitating to the earth, would have his "
his future happiness. heart solely bent to
What were the arguments of worldly ad
vantage held out through the whole New Strive to keep up a frail and feverish being, Testament, to induce the world to embrace Uumindful of the crown religion gives,
the religion it taught ? What was the con After this mortal change, to her true serrants. dition of St. Paul's introduction to Christiane
ity? It was not-I will crown him with hoIt is an unspeakable blessing that no nour and prosperity, with dignity and pleaevents are left to the choice of beings, who sure, but I will show him how great things from their blindness would seldom fail to he must suffer for my name's sake.' choose amiss. Were circumstances at our What were the virtues which Christ own disposal we should allot ourselves no-chiefly taught in his discourses? What were thing but ease and success, but riches and the graces he most recommended by bis fame, but protracted youth, perpetual example ? Self-denial, mortification, pahealth, unvaried happiness,
tience, long-suffering, renouncing ease and All this as it would not be very unnatural, pleasure. These are the marks which bare so perhaps it would not be very wrong, for ever since its first appearance, distinguishbeings who were always to live on earth. ed Christianity from all the religions in the But for beings who are placed here in a world, and on that account evidently pruve state of trial and not established in their its divine original. Ease, splendour, exterfinal home, whose condition in eternity de- nal prosperity, conquest, made no part of pends on the use they make of time, nothing its establishment. Other empires have would be more dangerous than such a pow- been founded in the blood of the vanquished, er, nothing more fatal than the consequences the dominion of Christ was founded in his to which such a power would lead.
own blood. Most of the beatitudes which If a surgeon were to put in the hand of a infinite compassion pronounced, hare the wounded patient the probe or the lancet, sorrows of earth for their subject, but the with how much false tenderness would he joys of heaven for their completion, treat himself! How skin-deep would be the To establish this religion in the world, the examination, how slight the incision! The Almighty, as his own word assures us, subpatient would escape the pain, but the verted kingdoms and altered the face of nawound might prove mortal. The practitions. For thus saith the Lord of Hosts, tioner therefore wisely uses his instruments (hy his prophet Haggai) yet once, it is a himself. He goes deep perhaps, but not little while, and I will 'shake the heavens deeper than the case demands.' The pain and the earth, and the sea and the dry land: may be acute but the life is preserved. and I will shake all nations, and the desire
Thus HE in whose hands we are, is too of all nations shall come.' Could a religia, good, and loves us too well to trust us with the kingdom of which was to be founded by ourselves. He knows that we will not con- such awful means, be established, be perpe tradict our own inclinations, that we will nottuated, without involving the sufferings of its impose on ourselves any thing unplcasant, subjects, that we will not inflict on ourselves any voo! If the Christian course had been meant
for a path of roses, would the life of the au- ! But the Christian's trials do not all spring thor of Christianity have been a path strew- from without. He would think them compaed with thorps ?" He made for us,' says ratively easy, had he only the opposition of bishop Jeremy Taylor, "a covenant of sut- men to struggle against, or even the severer ferings, his very promises were sufferings ; dispensations of God to sustain. If he has his rewards were sufferings, and his argu- a conflict with the world, he has a harder ments to invite men to follow him were only conflict with sin. His bosom foe is his most taken from sufferings in this life, and the unyielding enemy; reward of sufferings hereafter.'
But it no prince but the Prince of Peace His warfare is within, there unfatigued ever set out with the proclamation of the His fervent spirit labours. reversionary nature of his empire-if no other king, to allay avarice and check am-! This it is which makes his other trials bition, ever invited subjects by the unallu- heavy, which makes his power of sustaining ring declaration that ‘his kingdom was not them weak, which renders his conquest over of this world'—if none other ever declared them slow and inconclusive; which too often that it was not dignity or honours, valour or solicits him to oppose interest to duty, indotalents that made them worthy of him,' lence to resistance, and self-indulgence to but 'taking up the cross'-if no other ever victory. made the sorrows which would attend his This world is the stage on which worldly followers a motive for their attachment-men more exclusively act, and the things of yet no other ever had the goodness to pro- the world, and the applause of the world, mise, or the power to make his promise are the rewards which they propose to good, that he would give 'rest to the heavy themselves. These they often attain-with laden. Other sovereigns have 'overcome these they are satisfied. They aim at no the world' for their own ambitfon, but none higher end, and of their aim they are not besides ever thought of making the “tribu- disappointed. But let not the Christian relation' which should be the effect of that pine at the success of those whose motives conquest, a ground for animating the fidelity he rejects, whose practices he dares not of his followers-ever thought of bidding adopt, whose ends he deprecates. If he feel them .be of good cheer,' because he had any disposition to murmur when he sees the overcome the world in a sense which was irreligious in great prosperity, let him ask to make his subjects lose all hope of rising himself if he would tread their path to attain in it.
Itheir end-if he would do their work to obThe apostle to the Philippians enumera- tain their wages? He knows he would not ted it among the honours and distinctions Let him then cheerfully leave them to prepared for his most favoured converts, not scramble for the prizes, and jostle for the only that they should believe in Christ,' places, which the world temptingly holds but that they should also suffer for him.'l out, but which he will not purchase at the Any other religion would have made use of world's price. such a promise as an argument to deter, not Consult the page of history, and observe, to attract. That a religion should flourish not only if the best men have been the most the more under such discouraging invita-successful, but even if they have not often tions, with the threat of even degrading cir-leminently failed in great enterprizes, undercumstances and absolute losses, is an unan- taken perhaps on the purest principles; while swerable evidence that it was of no human unworthy instruments have been often emorigin.
ployed, not only to produce dangerous revoIt is among the mercies of God, that he lutions, but to bring about events ultimately strengthens the virtues of his servants by tending to the public benefit ; enterprizes in hardening them under the cold and bracing which good men feared to engage, which climate of adverse fortune, instead of leaving perhaps they were not competent to effect, them to languish under the shining but wi-Tor in effecting which they might have thering sun of unclouded prosperity. When wounded their conscience and endangered they cannot be attracted to him by gentler| their souls. influences, he sends these salutary storms Good causes are not always conducted by and tempests, which purify while they good men. A good cause may be connectalarm. Our gracious Father knows thated with something that is not good, with pareternity is long enough for his children to be ty for instance. Party often does that for happy in.
virtue, which virtue is not able to do for herThe character of Christianity may be self; and thus the right cause is promoted seen by the very images of military conflict, and effected by some subordinate, even by under which the Scriptures so frequently some wrong motive. A worldly man, conexhibit it. Suffering is the initiation into a necting himself with a religious cause, gives Christian's calling. It is his education for it that importance in the eyes of the world, heaven. Shall the scholar rebel at the dis- which neither its own rectitude, nor that of cipline which is to fit him for his profession; its religious supporters had been able to give or the soldier at the exercise which is to it. Nay the very piety of its advocates for qualify him for victory?
I worldly men always connect piety with im