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the terribleness of death itself, and from a dread of the bodily anguish which they judge to be inseparable from it.
How foolish, how pernicious are such fears! Death is really nothing more than the name which describes the separation which takes place between the soul and body in that moment in which our blood finally ceases to circulate ; and, generally, dying persons have endured more pain frequently in their lives, than will be experienced by them in the hour of dissolution, Death rarely occurs from any disease, until the violence of painful sensations from that disease is over: so that the pain of dying is commonly far less than what we feel in many hours of sickness antecedent to it. Why then should death in itself excite such terrible emotions in any rational mind? Why should any wish to live longer in this world, principally from a dread of the imagined horrors of the last hour? O fear not death, deluded sinners, but fear the consequences of death to all unrenewed persons. Yes, fear Him, who after death, is able to destroy both soul and body in hell; and desire to live, that you may be reconciled to Him.
5. Some sick persons desire to be spared, and recover strength, that they may do good to their fellow men, serve the Lord Jesus Christ, and glorify God. Their hearts are not devoted to worldly pleasures; they do not fear death itself, nor its consequences to them, for they have comfortable evidence of regeneration by the Spirit, and justification before God. They know in whom they have believed ; and by an eye of faith can discover mansions in heaven, prepared for them by their exalted Redeemer. For these persons to live is Christ; and they are well persuaded that to die would be gain: yet, if it is consistent with the divine will, they earnestly desire a prolongation of their time on earth. To continue here, they are sensible, will subject them to self-denial, toil, trials, and many of the miseries of the body of death, which hangs crucified, and dying, but not dead, around their own souls. But they have been enabled to taste some of the delights of doing good to their fellow men, in imitation of Christ's example; they love the service of their divine Master; and they are willing to be absent longer from home, if they may glorify Him, who hath called them out of nature's darkness into his marvellous light.
The inspired Psalmist was a person of this description, and when an old man he could say, "I will go in the strength of the Lord God; I will make mention of thy righteousness, even of thine only. O God, thou hast taught me from my youth; and hitherto have I declared thy wondrous works. Now also, when I am old, and greyheaded, O God, forsake me not; until I have showed thy STRENGTH unto this generation, and thy power to every one that is to come.” Even when old, he desired to live longer, that by the composition of inspired songs, and in other ways he might exhibit the Saviour to his fellow sinners, as the STRENGTH of God in the great work of salvation. He longed to be the happy instrument, by his pious publications, of instructing future generations; and his wish was granted in relation to millions who have arisen after him in the church of God.
We may contemplate a more illustrious example in our Lord Jesus Christ, who was desirous (even when constrained to pray for the removal of the cup of divine wrath, if salvation were possible to sinners without his drinking it,) of continuing in his humiliation on earth until he should have accomplished his Father's will in the glorious work of redemption. A return to the glory which the Son had with the Father in heaven, before the world was, must have been in itself unspeakably desirable to our Lord; but he came to our world as the Servant of the Godhead, and he was devoted to his service. Willingly he denied himself, and endured until he had accomplished the work which the Father gave him to do; yes, though in fulfilling his covenant obligations his soul was “ exceedingly sorrowful, even unto death."
Those Christians who think and feel aright would follow their Saviour; but alas! it is with unequal steps, and at a humble distance. They would regain their health and strength, might it please their Lord, because they esteem all their past services as few and feeble, and would most gladly spend and be spent in winning souls for Christ, and in building up his spiritual kingdom. Many of their relatives, friends, and acquaintance, it may be, are in a deplorably stupid and sinful state of soul; and they would live to pray for them; to warn them; to exert a favourable influence over them; and, if possible, to urge them into the fold of the Great Shepherd. Well assured are they, that God has no need of them, or of their working together with himself; but still they hope that their endeavours may be graciously owned and blessed for the conversion and salvation of sinners.
In many instances the amiable natural feelings of the pious person co-operate with his holy affections, to make life seem desirable to him, even to old age, that the wandering soul of a partner, a child, a brother, a sister, a friend, may, peradventure, be reclaimed and finally fitted for heaven. Hard indeed must be the trial of dying to a believer of a susceptible heart, whose near connexions are ungodly, and will have none to care for their souls when he is gone; and although it is a trial to which grace can make one submit without repining; yet it is natural and lawful, and christian, to pray that we may not be called to VOL. II.-Presb. Mag.
endure it; and that before our examples, warnings, instructions, and entreaties are forever excluded, we may see their desired effect on the minds of our dearest earthly associates.
Next to the pious concern which is felt for our kindred according to the flesh, that is probably the most powerful which is experienced by a faithful minister of the gospel, for the people of his charge, when he contemplates himself as being about to cease from his labours. The salvation of every one of his flock is a concern which occupies one of the inmost recesses of his soul. He may have prayed frequently and fervently for the persons over whom the Holy Ghost has made him a bishop, but he wishes to continue in supplications for them, until he can witness the answer of his prayers. He may have frequently addressed them in the character of an ambassador from the Almighty to guilty dying mortals; but he would arise from his couch of sickness and crawl to the pulpit, if strength was denied him to walk thither, might he but once more beseech his hearers to consider the truth, assent to it, be wise while it is called to-day, and fee from the wrath to come.
Heedless as most of his hearers may have been of his past counsels and entreaties, he fondly hopes, that could he continue to preach Jesus Christ crucified to them, they would repent. The good pastor on his bed of sickness, intends, if he is spared, to be more watchful for souls ; more faithful, plain, and pungent, if possible, in his ministrations, than he has ever been ; and to be more importunate at the throne of grace for the influences of the Holy Spirit to render his preaching effectual.
Such pastors there are, and so important and excellent does the work of reconciliation appear to them, that were they perfectly assured of the highest seat in heaven, next to that of Immanuel, they would be glad to live to old age, and labour ainong their fellow sinners, that they might be turned to God.
How ought you then, my hearers, to esteem the gospel and the privilege of hearing and promoting it? How ought you to realize, that there is nothing which should render life desirable, but the service of Christ, the satisfaction resulting from doing good, and the glorification and enjoyment of God?
Let me assure you, that if you have been sick, and have not desired restoration to health principally for these reasons, you have good ground for questioning the sincerity of your professed piety. You ought to fear that you are still supremely selfish, worldly and carnal in your views and feelings. To desire life that you may get good, is lawful; but no one who is born of God liveth unto himself ; no true Christian desires to live, chiefly for his own peculiar gratification. We must be truly benevolent, we must love the cause of God, we must be willing to deny ourselves that we may do good to others, we
must have the same mind that was in Christ Jesus, or we are not his disciples. Wo to them that are at ease in Zion: wo to them that are unprofitable servants: wo to them that stand all day idle, and will not enter into the Lord's vineyard with a disposition to labour.
Many of you, my hearers, as well as your pastor, have been spared in seasons of sickness, and have been brought back from the borders of the grave to the land of the living. But to what end? What good purpose will it answer? What are our desires and purposes, concerning the remnant of our days? It becomes us seriously to answer these questions; and to take heed, that the lengthening out of our tranquillity on earth do not render our death more grievous when it comes, and our eternity inexpressibly more miserable. We have more time to employ, either in the service of God or the devil; and more privileges for which we must give account in the last day. We may at least strive to do good if we will; and if our honest efforts should not be crowned with success, a merciful God will graciously accept the will for the deed.
But it is to be feared, that too many who have been made to look into the grave, and think it was preparing for them, have very soon forgotten all its solemn lessons; have hardened their hearts, and are now mere men of the world, mere men of business, or the gay daughters of fashion and folly. The winter which scowled on their pale faces in sickness has given place to the roses of spring once more, and they vainly imagine, that they shall always hear the cheerful singing of birds, and mingle in the dances of May.
Gay, worldly, busy, inconsiderate mortals! Sickness will return again : death will follow it: and dying with their present cold, rocky hearts, they will never feel the genial warmth of heavenly love; and no stream of pure and holy affection will spring up in their bosoms, to flow through eternity. Others have in their souls the fountain of living waters; but they shall remain barren of all good, and incapable of happiness. And this thought does not distress them! They know that they are destitute of the saving knowledge, fear, and love of God, but do not tremble at the prospect of dying as they have lived! What shall I say to them? What can I say? The night of death is coming, and they must lie down in endless sorrow. The judgment approaches, and they are condemned already. The final sentence is about to be uttered, and they will hear the neglected and insulted Redeemer command them to depart accursed into everlasting punishment. The gates of heaven are soon to be unfolded, that all the ransomed may enter in ; but they will be excluded. Hell is moved for them, to meet them at their coming; and they shall go down quick into it. There
the worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. And when the smoke of their torment shall ascend for ever and ever, the righteous will sing, “ holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty ; to him vengeance belongeth; and just is he in all his judgments."
E. S. ELY.
FOR THE PRESBYTERIAN MAGAZINE,
ON THE IMPORTANCE OF SOUND LEARNING IN THE GOSPEL
MINISTRY. The work of the ministry is, unquestionably, of vast importance and difficulty. It imposes on him who undertakes it a high degree of responsibility, for he is called to watch for souls as one who must give account. The glory of God, the prosperity of religion, and the everlasting interests of the souls of men, are closely connected with the able and faithful discharge of this office. It cannot then be supposed that the entrance on this work, the unskilful and unfaithful management of which is sure to do much prejudice to the cause of religion, has been left unguarded, and that every one who may fancy he has a call has a right to thrust himself into it? Far different froin this is the language of the word of God. “How can they preach except they be sent ?” is the solemn question proposed by the apostle. Suitable qualifications are insisted on as absolutely necessary to the proper discharge of the work. The apostle, addressing Timothy on this subject, uses the following pointed language: “ The things that thou hast heard of me, among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men who shall be able to teach others also," 2 Tim. ii. 2. When the Lord has work for a man to do he alway's qualifies him for that work.
A remarkable difference is observable in the sentiments entertained in the present times, and those entertained in the primitive ages of Christianity, of the importance of the ministerial office and the qualifications necessary for it. Now it is considered by many that, provided a man has piety and zeal, however illiterate he may be, he is qualified for undertaking this work; and many judge previous preparation and study almost unnecessary: nay, some even pretend that it has a tendency to abate zeal and deaden devotion, and are therefore for hurrying persons into the ministry with little or no preparation.
But so high was the opinion which was entertained of the responsibility and importance of the ministerial office, by some of the most eminent fathers of the primitive church, that they shrunk back from it with dread; they judged themselves unworthy of so high a trust and were with the utmost difficulty prevailed on to accept it. Chrysostom calls it “a burthen from which angelic strength might shrink.” Nay, we have higher