apt to be deeply affected with the thought that they shall not soon, if ever, see their departed friends again. As they know that the dead will not return to them, they seem to forget that they shall go to the dead, and may very soon see them in another world. When children see their dear parents die, they are ready to imagine that they shall never see them again. When parents see their dear children die, they are ready to imagine that they shall never see them again. A voice was heard in Rama, lamentation, and bitter weeping ; Rachel weeping for her children, refused to be comforted for her children, because they were not. Her imagination perverted her reason, and led her to despair of her ever seeing her deceased children, either because she thought that they had ceased to exist, or because she forgot that she must soon follow them into eternity. And there is no doubt that other bereaved parents have thought and grieved as Rachel did. Parents and children, the nearest and dearest relatives and friends, can very patiently bear a separation from one another, while they cherish an expectation of soon meeting together again; but when death separates them, they can hardly support it, because it seems like an eternal separation. This is a mere imaginary idea. The time of their separation is short. The living will soon follow their departed friends to that world where they will remain for ever. If the living did but properly realize their own frailty and mortality, they would not imagine that their separation from their deceased friends was either final or lasting, but very short and momentary. The dead, who realize what eternity is, view the longest life as a moment, and expect soon to see those whom they left behind, bewailing a long, if not a lasting separation. The universal and deep mourning of the living for the dead is one of the most striking evidences that their inward thought is, that they shall live for ever, never see corruption, nor follow those who have gone before them into eternity. “ All men think all men mortal but themselves.”

2. If the living must go to the dead, it cannot be a matter of great importance whether the time be longer or shorter, before they go into the world where their departed friends have gone. They are extremely apt to make great account of the distance of death and eternity. While they vainly imagine that it is a great while before they shall be called to meet death, and go to the dead, they feel little anxiety about leaving the world; but when death and eternity appear near, they are greatly alarmed. It will be as interesting to meet death late, as to meet it early; and indeed the consequences will be much more interesting. Death was far more interesting to Methuselah than to Abel. Methuselah lived eight or nine hundred years

[ocr errors]

longer in his probationary state than Abel did, and had a much more solemn account to give of himself than Abel had. The truth is, the longer men live in this probationary state, the more serious and interesting will be the consequences of their going to the dead in the eternal world. This seems to be forgotten by those who expect long life, and console themselves that it is a great while before they shall close their eyes upon this world and open them in another. They have no fear of dying, if they may be only spared to the latest hour of life. They are willing to follow their fathers and mothers, their brothers and sisters, and even their own children, to the grave, if they may be permitted to stay behind, and not go before them, nor with them. But if they are young, they may soon follow the young who have gone before them; and if they are old, they must certainly soon follow both the young and the old, who have gone the way of all the earth ; and not only see them, but dwell with them for ever. It is one of the most common and fatal delusions, to put far away the evil day of death, which is always near, and may be at the very door. It was this delusion that ruined the unwise man, who laid up goods for many years, and said to his soul, Eat, drink, and be merry. It was this delusion that destroyed Dives, who desired the dead to be raised to warn his living brethren of the same delusion, and prevent their coming to him in his state of torment. And it is this delusion that now keeps thousands thoughtless, prayerless and graceless. As they dread going to the dead, so they dread to think of it, and prepare for it.

3. If those who die go immediately to the dead, then every instance of mortality may be as affecting to the inhabitants of the other world, as to those in this. In this world death is always more or less affecting to the living, in a larger or smaller circle. Solomon represents every instance of mortality as affecting to the living. He says, “ It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart.” Death has always been the greatest source of sorrow to all the inhabitants of this world. Many who deem it a mark of weakness to shed tears on any other occasion, think it not beneath them to weep with them that weep, and mourn with them that mourn, on account of the decease of their friends or fellow

The reign of death from Adam to Moses, and from Moses to this day, has made this world a vale of tears, and a scene of bitter lamentation and sorrow. But the living have seen death only on one side, and that which is the least solemn and interesting. They have seen only the sickness, the pains, and the terrors of the dying; but have never seen


[ocr errors]

the eternal consequences of death in the invisible world. These must be unspeakably more affecting to every benevolent heart in heaven, and to every selfish heart in hell, than any of the previous or attendant circumstances of death in this world. If the conversion of a soul fills all heaven with joy, there is reason to think that the arrival of that soul in paradise spreads a greater and more general joy among the blessed who had been waiting for the happy event. While those who are left, lament, those who meet, rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory. The spirits in prison are not less, though differently, affected by the arrival of a poor, miserable, guilty, malignant spirit among them. Like Dives, they dread the increase of their numbers, which adds poignancy to their torments. The prophet forewarned the king of Babylon, that “ hell from beneath should be moved at his coming.' As there is not a day nor an hour passing, without deeply affecting the hearts of some in this world by the death of others, so there is not a day nor an hour passing, without deeply affecting by the same event the hearts of some in the world of spirits, who are never stupid, or torpid, but always awake and alive to every thing of serious and eternal importance.

4. If the living will go to the dead in the manner that has been described, then we may see one reason why good men have often been willing to die. Job said, “I would not live alway; all the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come.” Good old Simeon said, “ Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word.” Paul said in the name of christians, “ We are confident, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.” The truth of such declarations was often verified by the peaceful and joyful deaths of the ancient patriarchs. It is not incredible that good men should be willing to die, since there is one good reason for it, and that is, their desire to go to the dead, to see them, to converse with them, and to dwell with them for ever. They have a sincere desire to see the first parents of our race, the patriarchs, prophets, primitive christians, their former pious relatives, friends and acquaintance, with whom they once took sweet counsel, and walked to the house of God in company; and above all, they ardently desire to see the Lord Jesus Christ enthroned in glory at his Father's right hand. They live in hope that death will not only put a final period to all their present trials, troubles and sorrows, but introduce them into the presence of such amiable and glorious personages. Though they sometimes tremble at the thoughts of death, yet their hopes often overcome their fears, and make them willing to pass through the dark valley VOL. III.


which leads to the world of light. They live in the habitual exercise of that faith, "which is the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen.” They see, by the eye of faith, something beyond the grave worth dying for. They anticipate the blessedness of being where Christ is, where the spirits of just men made perfect are, and where all holy beings are perfectly united in love, communion, and felicity. If good men have such views, desires and hopes, it is reasonable to believe that they may be willing to die. A cordial and firm belief of the gospel, which has brought life and immortality to light, will account for the peace that christians enjoy, and the hopes they entertain, and the willingness they sometimes express, of being absent from the body and present with the Lord. What if some do not believe this to be true, shall their unbelief make it false? Paul actually took his leave of the world with joy, and triumphed in the full view of eternity. He cries, “ 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.” How many since Paul's day have expressed similar views and hopes, and appeared entirely willing to die, and go to the general assembly and church of the first-born in heaven.

5. If the living must go to the dead, then we may learn one reason why mankind in general are so loath to die.

It is not always owing to men's reluctance to leaving this world, but their dread of going into another. They do not wish to meet either saints or sinners in the world of spirits. They know that they can find no pleasure in seeing and conversing with the saints in light, and can find nothing but pain, guilt and despair, in seeing and conversing with the spirits in prison. They can see nothing beyond the grave but what they hate and dread, and this makes them so reluctant to die. would be willing to leave a world in which they have experienced nothing but vanity and vexation of spirit, but they cannot bear the thought of going into a world where they cannot see a gleam of light or joy, but a state of everlasting darkness and despair. And there are others who dread dying, not merely because they fear the pains of death, but because they fear the awful consequences of going into an unseen and untried world, from whence they shall never return. They wish to avoid seeing saints in all their glory and blessedness, and are still more anxious to avoid seeing those who are receiving the due reward of their deeds, where there is no light, nor peace,

They nor hope. I know some say they are only afraid of dying, but not of being dead ; but this is probably owing to their not looking through the grave into a boundless eternity. There are, I believe, but very few who are willing to go into another world, that are not willing to go through the pains of death to get there. That faith which reconciles men to go to the dead, generally reconciles them to go through the dark, dreary, or painful valley of death. So that the real cause of men's being so unwilling to die, is the fear of what they may see, or hear, or suffer after the pains of death are over, and they are fixed in eternity. And all who are in a state of unrenewed nature, and under the dominion of a totally corrupt heart, have solid reasons to fear going to the dead, and meeting the inhabitants of heaven or hell. The day of death must be a tremendous day to all who are unprepared for heaven. To be driven away in their wickedness is to be banished from the gracious presence of God, from the smiles, approbation and society of the blessed, and to be doomed to dwell and suffer with the guiltiest, vilest, and most miserable creatures in the universe; and can their hearts endure, or their hands be strong, in the day that God shall thus deal with them ?

6. If the living must go to the dead, then a realizing sense of this solemn truth would have a happy tendency to qualify the grief of mourners, and turn their thoughts into a proper channel. They are extremely apt to ponder upon the mere idea of separation, of a long, if not final separation. It is true, their departed friends have left them, and gone to their long home. It is true that they will never return, and you

will never have another opportunity to see them, to converse with them, or to enjoy their company, or assistance, or protection, or consoling sympathy. But why should you cherish and increase your sorrows by dwelling upon the imaginary idea of a long separation ? The separation will not be long, if you are prepared for heaven, and they are gone there, for you will soon go there and see them, and converse with them, and dwell with them for ever. And all the pains of a short separation will be infinitely outweighed by a joyful meeting, and an everlasting residence together in the kingdom of glory. But if you are not prepared for heaven, and they are not gone there, it is a mercy that you are separated from them, and it will be an infinitely greater mercy if you should be for ever separated from them. Why then, I repeat the question, should mourners nourish their grief by pondering upon the idea of a long separation? They ought to turn their chief attention to what they now are, and what their departed friends now are. These are subjects of the greatest solemnity and importance. And

« VorigeDoorgaan »