« PreviousContinue »
But with the ungodly it is not so. In their case the sufferings of this present life have no connexion with the glory to be revealed. The gospelthat link which mercy has provided to unite the one of these to the other-has been wickedly set at nought; and the consequence of this deed, if persisted in, will be more fearful than may now be conceived. With such minds the season of darkness has contributed nothing toward a meetness for the realms of light. The night is far spent, but there is no day at hand: the winter has passed, but no spring-time, no summer succeeds. They have borne the burdens which all have to bear in this vale of mortality, but it has not been that they might find rest to their souls. On the contrary, the darkest day they have here known must prove only a faint image of that utter darkness which is reserved as their dwelling-place for ever; the wintry scenes of life, as they now pass, must appear all-attractive if compared with the wasting desolations of the eternity disclosed to them; while the heaviest burden sustained on earth must be as a thing of nought, in comparison with the load of guilt and sorrow that will press without intermission, and without end, on the nature of the lostthe hopeless.
THE CHRISTIAN WARFARE, AS CONNECTED WITH -THE FEAR OF DEATH.
Thankless for favours from on high,
Would he improve the boon.
WAR always supposes an adversary; and the fear of an adversary, generally bespeaks the weakness of one party, and the strength of another. Death is one of the enemies with whom the Christian, and the whole human race, have to contend; and an enemy to whom all men, soon or late, become captives. Hence it can hardly occasion surprise that this foe should be spoken of as an object of fear. Where there is the faintest prospect of success, there remains some motive to courage, endurance, and effort; but where the event of being numbered with the slain is inevitable, the heart generally sickens, and resistance is abandoned. Nevertheless, though there be no discharge in this warfare, and though it be one in which the unbeliever can have no hope, our con
dition is not desperate. There is a deliverer, who proclaims himself as the resurrection and the life; and there are means by which those who make Him their defence, may triumph over death, and, like him, may conquer, though they seem to be vanquished. His design in assuming our nature, and appearing on our earth, is expressly said to have been, that he might deliver those, who, through fear of death, were all their lifetime subject to bondage.
In reference to the Fear of Death, there are two points which deserve our devout consideration:these are, its Source, and its Remedy.
I. One obvious source of the Fear of Death will be seen, in THE NATURE OF THE CAUSES IMMEDIATELY PRODUCING IT. Pain and sorrow are evils to which we are constantly exposed, and from which we are ever shrinking. To escape from the one or the other is the great business of life. When approaching us, even in their most subdued forms, we do much to avoid them. How anxious, then, must our thoughts be, how agitated our emotions, when meeting them in their most formidable array! All that men endure, and still live, will generally appear trivial, in comparison with that which proves too heavy to be borne, and they sink under it. There are, doubtless, instances in which persons suffer less in dying than at many previous intervals during life. But we are slow to conclude that such occurrences are frequent. We think of
the lingering sickness, the wasting strength, the progress of disease, the aching bones, the sunken eye, the livid flesh, and the convulsive throes,adding to all this, the enfeebled mind, and the nameless strugglings of sorrow, and remorse, and fear, which so often accompany the spirits of men in their great transit from this place of probation to the place of their destiny. Who can have seen these painful and humiliating causes at work, and not have been constrained to ask-And where shall my death-chamber be found? After what manner will my poor exit be appointed? How shall I meet the swellings of Jordan? Indeed, the only effect of a thoughtful reference to the causes of this event, if considered in themselves, must be to create that abject dismay which the Apostle has described by the term "bondage." They are none of them joyous, but grievous, and, taken together, they constitute the extreme of natural evil; nor is it a few who feel the vassalage which they are so powerful to impose.
The fear of death may be attributed, in part, to THE PAINFUL SEPARATIONS EFFECTED BY IT. When the soul of the rich man in the parable passed from its pampered abode to the world of spiritual natures, it was soon ascertained that his good things had all been received during his earthly life. To be removed from the earth was, in his case, to be removed from the place where his treasure and his heart had long been. It is with the ambitious, and the covetous, as with the
voluptuary:-they give their whole heart to present things, and, say what they may, with their whole heart, they must fear being torn away from them. If what they love most be on the earth, what they fear most must be the stroke which separates for ever between them and the earth. If there be any show of reconciliation in regard to such an event, it can only have proceeded from the heathen principle, that there is a dignity in submitting with calmness to what is inevitable:-like Cæsar, such men would gather their mantle round them, and appear the hero to the last.
But they are not merely selfish interests, or forbidden attachments, from which we are separated by death. There are connexions and pursuits which have much in them that is amiable, and generous, and even devout, from which men are severed by their dissolution. The husband would fain live to protect the partner of his present sojourn from the rude assaults of an evil world. The parent would not leave his children orphans in a region where the law of kindness is so imperfectly remembered. The friend would not be taken from his friend. Nor would the man, whose mind is filled with plans of self-improvement, and of future usefulness, be suddenly called away, and see all these pleasing visions change as a dream when one awaketh. Many ties like these, in addition to the lower earthliness of mankind, occur to make us frequently solicitous that our dying day may be a distant one.