« ElőzőTovább »
from their minds. Two illustrious messengers appear. The apparel in which they are arrayed denotes them inhabitants of the regions to which the Messiah had ascended; and their words, according with what the disciples had seen, afford them the fullest assurance of that important fact, on which they were henceforth to rest their hopes :-“Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as you have seen him go up into heaven.” Their faith and their hopes were now confirmed; every ground of suspicion was now removed; the ignominy of the cross was effaced: and they'were no longer left to doubt whether Jesus was a messenger from God, while they contemplated his victorious return to the mansions of his Father's house
XII.--THE TRUTH FREES US FROM THE SLAVISH
FEAR OF DEATH.
FROM the bondage of fear, Christ has made his followers free. By making atonement for their sins, he has disarmed death of his sting; and by rising as the first fruits of them that sleep, he has secured to us the victory over the grave. Discovering the reality of a future world, revealing its connexion with the present, he hath elevated our aims above the region of mortality, and given a new aspect and importance to the events which befall us on earth. Its joys lose their power to dazzle and seduce, when viewed through the glory that remains to be revealed. Its employments cease to be a burden, because we see them leading to an endless recompense of reward. And even its sorrows can no longer overwhelm us, because, when compared with the whole of our duration, they last but for a moment, and are the means appointed by our Father to prepare us for our future inheritance. How cheering are these considerations under the severest trials to which we are exposed! From how many perplexing, anxious, enslaving terrors have they set uş free? What is it, О child of sorrow! what is it that now wrings
thy heart, and binds thee in sadness to the ground? Whatever it be, if thou knowest the truth, the truth shall give thee relief. Have the terrors of guilt taken hold of thee? Dost thou go all the day long mourning for thy iniquities, refusing to be comforted? And on thy bed at night, do visions of remorse disturb thy rest, and haunt thee with the fears of a judgment to come? Behold the Redeemer hath borne thy sins in his own body on the tree ; and, if thou art willing to forsake them, thou knowest with certainty that they shall not be remembered in the judgment against thee. Hast thou, with weeping eyes, committed
grave the child of thy affections, the virtuous friend of thy youth, or the tender partner, whose pious attachment lightened the load of life. Behold they are not dead. Thou knowest that they live in a better region with their Saviour and their God; that still thou holdest thy place in their remembrance; and that thou shalt soon meet them again, to part no more. Dost thou look forward with trembling to the days of darkness that are to fall on thyself, when thou shalt lie on the bed of sickness, when thy pulse shall have become low—when the cold damps have gathered on thy browand the mournful looks of thy attendants have told thee that the hour of thy departure has come ? To the mere natural man this scene is awful and alarming. But if thou art a Christian—if thou knowest and obeyest the truth, thou needest fear, no evil. The shadows which hang over the valley of death shall retire at thy approach ; and thou shalt see beyond it the spirits of the just, and an innumerable company of angels, the future companions of thy bliss, bending from their thrones to cheer thy departing soul, and to welcome thee into everlasting habitations. Why then should slavish terrors of the future disquiet thy soul in the days of this vain life, which passeth away like a shadow? The gospel hath not given thee the spirit of fear, but of confidence and joy. Even now there is no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit ; and when they die (a voice from heaven hath proclaimed it), “ Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord, from henceforth: yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours, and their works do follow them.”
XIII.- SOLOMON'S ACCOUNT OF OLD AGE EXPLAINED.
In the 12th chapter of Ecclesiastes, the preacher admonishes us to dedicate our youthful days to the service of our Creator, considering the evil days which are coming upon us, when all the faculties of our minds and bodies shall fail us under the infirmities of age. For then, as the preacher beautifully represents it to us, as in a glass or mirror, the sun, and the moon, and the stars are darkened; the superior powers which rule in the body of man, as the heavenly luminaries do in the world—the understanding and reason, the imagination and the memory, are obscured as when the clouds interpose between us and the lights of the firmament. In the earlier season of life, the clouds of affliction having poured down their rain, they pass away, and sun-shine succeeds ; but now the clouds return after the rain; old age itself is a continual sorrow, and there is no longer any hope of fair weather. The keepers of the house, the arms and hands which are made to guard and defend the body, begin to shake and tremble; and the strong men, the shoulders, where the strength of the body is placed, and which were once able to bear every weight, begin to stoop and bow themselves; and the grinders, the teeth, begin to fall away, and cease to do their work, because they are few. Also those that look out of the windows are darkened ; the eyes, those windows of the body, through which we look at all things abroad as we look out from the windows of a house, become dim; and he that uses them is as one who looketh out of a window in the night. Then the doors are shut in the streets ; difficulties and obstructions attend all the passages of the body, and digestion becomes weak when the grinding is low. The youthful ard healthy sleep sound, and are apt to transgress by taking too much rest; but the aged sleep with difficulty, and rise up at the voice of the bird ; they are ready to leave their disturbed rest at the crowing of the cock. The
daughters of music are brought low; the voice fails and becomes hoarse; the hearing is dull; and the spirits, now less active than they used to be, are less affected by the powers of harmony; and so sit in heaviness, hanging down their heads, as virgins drooping under the sorrow of captivity. Old age, being inactive and helpless, becomes afraid of that which is high ; it is fearful of climbing, because it is in danger of falling; and being unfit to endure the hardness of fatigue, and the shocks of a rough journey, the fears which are in the way discourage it from setting out. Then the almond tree flourishes; the hair of the head becomes white, as the early almond blossoms in the hard weather of the winter, before the snows have
And even the grasshopper becomes a burden; the legs, once light and nimble to leap, as the legs of that insect, and which used with ease to bear the weight of the whole body, are now become a burden, and can scarcely carry themselves; and when the faculties thus fail, the desire fails along with them, for nothing is desirable, when nothing can be enjoyed.
Such are the evil days, which come upon us when our youth is past, and prepare the way for that last and greatest evil of our death, when man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets lamenting his departure. Then the silver cord, the nerves whose coat is white and shining as a cord of silver, is loosed and no longer does its office. The circulation of the blood stops at the heart, the fountain of life,-as when a pitcher, which draws water, is broken at the well, or the watering wheel, circulating with its buckets, which it both fills and empties at the same time, is broken at the cistern. Thus do the vital motions all cease at death; and the dust returns to the earth, to become such as it was before man was made out of it; and his immortal spirit returns unto God, the fountain of immortality, from whom it proceeded.
Let then the light of my understanding, while I have it, be employed in the search of truth, and let my memory be a treasury of all useful knowledge; let my hands labour while their strength lasts, and my shoulders be ready and patient under every necessary burden ; let my mind be ever looking out through the windows of my body, to see and learn, while the day-light is with me. Let the daughters of music be employed in the praises of God, before they are brought low; let my youthful ambition and activity be occupied in pursuing the elevated, difficult, and laborious path of Christian duty; and let me so spend my early years, so use my bodily strength and all my faculties, as that my hoary head, being found in the
way of righteousness, may be a crown of glory; that when I depart I may be affectionately remembered by the wise and the good; and that when this body ceases to breathe, and is mixed with its kindred clay, my soul
may go into the presence of a reconciled God, and enter on the enjoyment of that eternal happiness which my Saviour purchased for me, and for which his grace and Spirit have been preparing me in the course of my earthly pilgrimage.
XIV.-A PICTURE OF HUMAN LIFE.
OBIDAH, the son of Abensina, left the caravansera early in the morning, and pursued his journey through the plains of Indostan. He was fresh and vigorous with rest; he was animated with hope; he was incited by desire; he walked swiftly forward over the vallies, and saw the hills gradually rising before him. As he passed along, his ears were delighted with the morning song of the bird of paradise, he was fanned by the last flutters of the sinking breeze, and sprinkled with dew by groves of spices; he sometimes contemplated the towering height of the oak, monarch of the hills; and sometimes caught the gentle fragrance of the primrose, eldest daughter of the spring; all his senses were gratified, and all care was banished from his heart.
Thus he went on till the sun approached his meridian, and the increasing heat preyed upon his strength; he then looked round about him for some more commodious path. He saw, on his right hand, a grove that seemed to wave its shades as a sign of invitation ; he entered it, and found the coolness and verdure irresistibly pleasant.