« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
have been eminent for fortitude of mind. Of this we have one conspicuous example in the apostle Paul, whom it will be instructive for us to view in a remark. able occurrence of his life. After having long acted as the apostle of the Gentiles, his mission called him to go to Jerusalem, where he knew that he was to encounter the utmost violence of his enemies. Just before he set sail, he called together the elders of his fa vourite church at Ephesus; and, in a pathetic speech, which does great honour to his character, gave them his last farewell. Deeply affected by their knowledge of the certain dangers to which he was exposing himself, all the assembly were filled with distress, and melted into tears. The circumstances were such, as might have conveyed dejection even into a resolute mind; and would have totally overwhelmed the feeble. "They all wept sore, and fell on Paul's neck, and kissed him; sorrowing most of all for the words which he spoke, that they should see his face no more." What were then the sentiments, what was the language, of this great and good man? Hear the words which spoke his firm and undaunted mind. "Behold, I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there; save that the Holy Spirit witnesseth in every city, saying, that bonds and afflictions abide me. But none of these things move me; neither count I my life dear to myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God." There was uttered the voice, there breathed the spirit of a brave and a vir tuous man. Such a man knows not what it is to shrink from danger, when conscience points out his path. In that path he is determined to walk; let the consequences be what they may.
This was the magnanimous behaviour of that great apostle, when he had persecution and distress full in view. Attend now to the sentiments of the same ex
cellent man, when the time of his last suffering approached; and remark the majesty, and the ease, with which he looked on death. "I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight. I have finished my course. I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness." How many years of Life does such a dying moment overbalance? Who would not choose, in this manner, to go off the stage, with such a song of triumph in his mouth, rather than prolong his existence through a wretched old age, stained with sin and shame ?
The good man's comfort in affliction.
THE religion of Christ not only arms us with fortitude against the approach of evil; but, supposing evils to fall upon us with their heaviest pressure, it lightens the load by many consolations to which others are strangers While bad men trace, in the calamities. with which they are visited, the hand of an offended Sovereign, Christians are taught to view them as the well-intended chastisements of a merciful Father. They hear amidst them, that still voice which a good conscience brings to their ear: "Fear not, for I am with thee; be not dismayed, for Bam thy God." They apply to themselves the comfortable promises with which the gospel abounds. They discover in these the happy issue decreed to their troubles; and wait with patience till Providence shall have accomplished its great and good designs. In the mean time, Bevotion opens to them its blessed and holy sanctuary: that sanctuary, in which the wounded heart is healed, and the weary mind is at rest; where the cares of the world are forgotten, where its tumults are
hushed, and its miseries disappear; where greater objects open to our view than any which the world presents; where a more serene sky shines, and a sweeter and calmer light beams on the afflicted heart. In those moments of devotion, a pious man, pouring out his wants and sorrows to an Almighty Supporter, feels that he is not left solitary and forsaken in a vale of wo. God is with him; Christ and the holy Spirit are with him; and though he should be bereaved of every friend on earth, he can look up in heaven to a Friend that will never desert him.
The case of dife.
WHEN We contemplate the close of life; the termination of man's designs and hopes; the silence that now reigns among those who, a little while ago, were so busy, or so gay; who can avoid being touched with sensations at once awful and tender? What heart but then warms with the glow of humanity? In whose eye does not the tear gather, on revolving the fate of passing and short-lived man?
Behold the poor man, who lays down at last the burden of his wearisome life. No more shall he groan under the load of poverty and toil. No more shall he hear the insolent calls of the master, from whom he received his scanty wages. No more shall he be 4 raised from needful slumber on his bed of straw, nor be hurried away from his homely meal, to undergo the repeated labours of the day. While his humble grave is preparing, and a few poor and decayed neighbours are carring him thither, it is good for us to think, that this man too was our brother; that for him the aged and destitute wife, and the needy children, now weep; that, neglected as he was by the world, he possessed, perhaps, both a sound understanding, and a
worthy heart; and is now carried by angels to rest in Abraham's bosom.-At no great distance from him, the grave is opened to receive the rich and proud man. For, as it is said with emphasis in the parable, "the rich man also died, and was buried." He also died. His riches prevented not his sharing the same fate with the poor man; perhaps, through luxury, they accelerated his doom. Then, indeed, "the mourners go about the streets ;" and while, in all the pomp and magnificence of wo, his funeral is preparing, his heirs, impatient to examine his will, are looking on one another with jealous eyes, and already beginning to dispute about the division of his substance.-One day, we see carried along, the coffin of the smiling infant; the flower just nipped as it began to blossom in the pa rent's view: and the next day, we behold the young man, or young woman, of blooming form and promising hopes, laid in an untimely grave. While the funeral is attended by a numerous unconcerned conipany, who are discoursing with one another about the news of the day, or the ordinary affairs of life, let our thoughts rather follow to the house of mourning, and represent to themselves what is passing there. There we should see a disconsolate family, sitting in silent grief, thinking of the sad breach that is made in their little society, and with tears in their eyes, looking to the chamber that is now left vacant, and to every memorial that presents itself of their departed friend. By such attention to the woes of others, the selfish hardness of our hearts will be gradually softened, and melted down into humanity.
Another day, we follow to the grave, one who, in old age, and after a long career of life, has in full maturity sunk at last into rest. As we are going along to the mansion of the dead, it is natural for us to think, and to discourse, of all the changes which such a person has seen during the course of his life. He has passed, it is likely, through varieties of fortune. He
has experienced prosperity, and adversity. He has seen families and kindreds rise and fall. He has seen peace and war succeeding in their turns; the face of his country undergoing many alterations; and the very eity in which he dwelt, rising, in a manner, new around him. After all he has beheld, his eyes are now closed for ever. He was becoming a stranger in the midst of a new succession of men. A race who knew him not, had arisen to fill the earth. Thus passes the world away. Throughout all ranks and conditions, "one generation passeth, and another generation cometh; and this great inn is by turns evacuated and re plenished, by troops of succeeding pilgrims." "O vain and inconstant world! O fleeting and transient life! When will the sons of men learn to think of thee as they ought? When will they learn humanity from the afflictions of their brethren ; or moderation and wisdom, from the sense of their own fugitive state?
Exalted society, and the renewal of virtuous connexions, two sources of future felicity.
BESIDES the felicity which springs from perfect love, there are two circumstances which particularly enhance the blessedness of that "multitude who stand before the throne;" these are, access to the most ex-. alted society, and renewal of the most tender con nexions. The former is pointed out in the Scripture, by "joining the innumerable company of angels, and the general assembly and church of the first-born; by sitting down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven;" a promise which opens the sublimest prospects to the human mind. It allows good men to entertain the hope, that separated from all the dregs of the human mass, from that mixed and polluted