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ings meet with no sympathy or support; should you, brethren, permit them to languish into feebleness and decay, the Committee can see no prospect but that the Congregational Churches of England and Wales must, for a long and indefinite period, remain as hereto. fore, destitute of the advantages and pleasures of a general and organized union. The Committee are not eager and in haste for immediate and great results. They can exercise patience, and be satisfied with gradual progress. They wish not an advance more speedy than the convictions and counsel of their brethren will produce; they meditate a safe and salutary, a lasting and well organized union, and are persuaded that such an union can reach maturity only by a progress well considered and firmly secured at each successive step. But, brethren, let us with one mind unite in this great attempt. Let us, at least, try if we cannot all unite in peace and love ; if we cannot obtain the benefits of union while we secure those of liberty ; if we cannot fraternize as a body with other great bodies of Christians; if we cannot accomplish something worthy ourselves, our times, our principles, our advantages for promoting truth, liberty, and peace; if we cannot annually meet by our representatives in one of the most solemn assemblies for prayer, and love, and zeal, our world can witness. If the attempt be made, success is not doubtful. The Committee will do their duty; you, brethren, will not fail of yours. God will not withhold his blessing. And the Congregational Union of England and Wales may yet stand forth as not the least distinguished among the many noble institutions of our age, for christian wisdom, piety, and love, for spreading the Gospel, and promoting harmony among believers of differing sentiments.
Signed on behalf of the Committee, Congregational Library,
ON THE INTERCOURSE OF THE SPIRITS OF DEPARTED
SAINTS, WITH THEIR KINDRED ON EARTH.
The degree of solicitude which we feel concerning any interest is in proportion to the value which we place upon it. Thus, when an object of our devoted affection is removed by death, a painful feeling of incredulity comes over the mind, contrary to its former convictions, whether, as a conscious and intelligent being, he still continues to live. As we bend over the corpse of the departed, and behold the countenance, on which we loved to gaze, so sadly changed, “ the lustre extinguished from the eye, where thought and feeling were wont to reveal themselves in a thousand incarnations; the lips sealed in silence, which no allurement-no entreaty can break : all passion, all reason, all consciousness fled ;” and think how soon the image, still lovely in death, will turn to dissolution, and become a loathsome mass of corrupt matter, we feel the full pang of separation, and the fear involuntarily arises in our mind that he is no more. Until that moment we might have entertained the belief of the soul's indeVOL. I. N. $.
pendence and immortality; and there may be enough, when the first gush of passionate grief has subsided into the calm of quiet and sober reflection, to assure us that it has not perished in the “ wreck of matter;" but, during the temporary excitement, our belief, if we were able to believe at all, was inore nearly allied to a fond wish that it might be so, than any firm conviction which we had of its continued existence.
A similar kind of doubtful solicitude is sometimes felt respecting the intercourse of the spirits of departed saints with the kindred they have left below, and their knowledge of each other in the celestial world. Are they still conversant with the persons with whom they once companied, and the scenes where they once dwelt ? or, are they so enraptured with the vision of the Holy One, and the worship of the Lamb, so rapt in the ecstacies of the skies, that they never cast a glance downward from their blessedness on the beings who were the objects of their warmest love? The inqniry is at all times interesting; and the thought were, indeed, delightful, were it true, especially at those seasons when death has removed some beloved friend or relative, and the mourner, 'overwhelmed with the loss he has been compelled to sustain, is unable to derive comfort, even from the tender sympathy of those who seek to alleviate his sorrows. But we cannot affirm positively on a subject respecting which the Scriptures have said so little; and the subject is not without its difficulties.
“ I know not if the bright above
Look down on those they loved below ;-
In angel-breasts may glow;
Which those-once most beloved---must bear,
A chill upon the joy that glows
Where all besides is formed to bless."
In the first place, there must be the intercourse of recollection between them and their former companions on earth. Our nature is in no respect destroyed as to its essential properties, and loses none of its faculties by its passage through death; all its faculties are retained, and acquire additional power and expansion by the transition. Heaven is represented as perfecting our nature. Memory, therefore, will still be a faculty of glorified minds; and to look back on the course along which the glorified saints have travelled, to survey the progressive steps and harmonions movements by which a watchful and benignant providence conducted them along their pilgrimage, and to observe how all things, even the afflictions of life, have been blessings, and the sorrows which pressed them to the earth means of the highest good, will be one of their employ
ments, and one source of their blessedness. Is it likely, then, that the friends and companions of former days, who were endeared to them by the sweet interchange of affection, went with them to the house of God in company, traversed with them these lower scenes till they came to the verge of the “ dark cold stream of death, whose waters run betwixt time and eternity," should have no place in their recollections? It cannot be; or memory must fail, and affection cease to glow in their purified bosoms. Can the fond mother forget the child of her youth, though he dwell in far-off lands? Melting and mournful thoughts still steal over her recollections, and time has no power to dry up the fountain of her tears; years may pass away, but the memory of the form over which she hung with maternal fondness suffers no decay; it keeps its place till the last hour of the most extended life; and can it be, that distance of time or place can obliterate from the minds of glorified saints “ mother or sister, brother, sire, or son,” as the case may be, the images of those they loved when on earth? These images will still live bright in memory's eye, and be treasured up as sacred things in the storehouse of their minds, to be often gazed on, till the countenances they resemble are again beheld, and reflect back the wonted smile of joy.
But that the spirits of the departed have direct communion with us, and are acquainted with our present condition by actual observation, is the interesting point of consideration. Well, we do not err to think that it is even so. The Scriptures, we admit, have not, in so many words, replied to the question-do the spirits of the glorified still hold communion with their earthly kindred ? nor relieved the solicitude which asks it. But it is, nevertheless, evidently implied in many passages. “ Our conversation is in heaven.” “ But ye are come . . . . to the general assembly and church of the first-born, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect.” “ We also are compassed about with a great cloud of witnesses,” (spectators,) of the worthies of other days; and why not by those by whom we were personally known and loved when on earth ? Spirits of a higher order minister to the heirs of salvation, and why not they be sent forth to perform similar kind offices to the pious friends who have survived them in these lower scenes ? Such services are as compatible with the celestial employments of glorified saints as with those of angelic natures. They are beings possessed of as great benevolence, and to them it must be a source of as high gratification and exquisite delight; nay, there are ties which bind them to earth, and motives to attract them thither which angels never felt. True, they are invisible; we have no direct evidence of their presence, either from sight or consciousness of any influence which they exercise upon us; but it is thus also in reference to angels, and we see them not, because our spirits are shut up in the prison of the body, and the perceptions of our spirits are bounded and obscured by the grosser senses through which they look. But though unseen by us, we may be seen by them. They are pure spirits, and can surround us unobserved ; they are unfettered by any corporeal form, and are of inconceivably rapid flight, so that distance can present no obstacle to their being present with us, how remote soever the heaven of their bliss from earth, at all times when we need their aid.
It is a supposition which is not to be ranked among the vain speculations which too often distract the minds of those who would be wise above what is written. On the contrary, it is a fair and legitimate inquiry, a consideration which, when believed and brought home to the bosom, is fraught with strong consolation, and may be a means of much spiritual good. How unspeakably de lightful to the pious individual to feel assured, when his heart is bleeding under some sore stroke of bereavement, that he who has just been torn from his embrace has not become insensible to his sorrow; and that though now he has outlived all his earthly friendships, they who loved him when here love him still; to feel assured, when exposed to the temptations and trials of life, they are near with “unseen ministry of angel power” to protect and keep him; to know, when harassed by the cares and wearied by the toils which are inseparable from our present condition, they would still be the sharers of his anxieties and sorrows; to believe they still look upon him from their blessedness, company him in his solitude, hover around his path, observe his falling tears, watch for his welfare, will be near his dying bed, and be the first to congratulate him on his escape from this world of sin and suffering, and to welcome him with ecstatic greetings to the society of the blessed. Say not, that did they “know the countless woes which we must bear," they too would experience distress. And is it so, that they are ignorant of our condition? that affection tends our travel only to the grave, and then they cease to love us? no; then they do not cease to have a fellow-feeling with us in our sufferings; and if they cannot, without a diminution of their joys, neither can the Saviour, who is still touched with a feeling of our infirmities. But who knows not that sympathy, even in another's woe, is a feeling more closely linked with pleasure than with pain, and one of the many sources of our enjoyments in this world, and it may be one in heaven. Their perfect knowledge of the cquity of all the divine procedure, and of the gracious operation of that procedure, when most afflictive, derived from their own experience of it, will awaken in their bosoms a responsive feeling of approbation, and suppress every emotion of passionate grief, which they might otherwise feel at the sight of their suffering kindred, and which would fill heaven itself with mourning, and lamentation, and woe.
The richest and purest pleasures are found in the endearing ties of kindred, and the domestic charities of home; and it is through the medium of our natural affections and sympathies that the grace of God operates; and in proportion as these are blended with holy recollections do they become stimulants to piety. Hence it is the ordinary, if not the invariable course of providence, that the children of many prayers and tears are not eventually cast away. Years may roll away after their removal from under their father's roof, and the time when last they made part of that beloved circle which was daily assembled around the domestic altar; and during that lengthened period no fruits of piety may appear; but those prayers are not forgotten; they are associated with every recurrence to their mind of those who joined with them in the devotions of the family, and whose images are indelibly engraven on their heart. The recollection of that early home, endeared by the force of natural affection, and hallowed by the sanctity of parental piety, steals over the heart with no unprofitable remembrance; it quickens the emotions of repentance; it confirms the pious resolve, and mingling with feelings of tenderness, kindles up the feelings of devotion which had become extinct in the churlish atmosphere of the world. Now will not the belief, warmly cherished, that that parent, long since passed to the skies, still bends towards the earth he has left, and is still looking on his children with unabated solicitude for their religious welfare, give vividness to those early scenes, as traced on the map of our remembrance, and assist the moral impression they are calculated to make ?
Before he died he called them around his bed, to give them his last parting blessing and advice: “ My children,” said he“ I shall very soon be separated from you, and before I die, I wish, once more, to see you all, and to give you the last token of a father's love; you will remember my words. My soul I commit into the hands of my Redeemer, who will keep that I commit unto him. His cause, my children, I bequeath to you ; it was dear to me while I lived, and now I can serve it no longer. I leave it to you; you will love his cause ; yon will love it for its own sake; you will love it, I trust, for my sake also. God bless you, my children. Farewell !" While a parent's name is revered and loved, these words can never be effaced from the memory of the heart. Other cirucmstances and scenes, together with the defacing hand of time, might have diminished the distinctness of the first impression; but the continued consciousness in their minds that he is still invisibly present to behold them, and that their last interview still lives in the bright consciousness of his own glorified spirit, will never suffer it to pass away into oblivion, and the natural effect of that impression will be to attach them to the very stones of the temple where he worshipped, and to identify the prosperity of the Redeemer's cause with the warmest wishes and purest joys of their heart.
He loved them while he lived, and when he died, he carried his love for them with him to heaven. It still lives, and glows, and reigns in his heart; it is unmixed with any feeling of selfishness as when on earth, and it derives a power and intensity from his enlarged views of the value of the soul, and the blessings of redemption, which it never could have acquired from any conceivable circumstance or occurrence, how protracted soever his intercourse with them in this world. Say, is there no power of motivity in the thought that he from above is still tracking their footsteps with his eye, turning with thein into every scene they enter in search of rest, observant of them when borne down, and broken, and disappointed at every turn of their fruitless search; no power of motivity to dispose them to repentance, to turn at last where none ever sought rest in vain, to turn to God, to break off the chain of sin, and enter into