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tained me, how often had hell received me? but that thy faithfulness did not fail with my faith, but that thy goodness did not ebb with my gratitude, but that thy love of me did not wane with my love of thee, how often had I perished ? How often have I been as nearly damned as Simon was nearly drowned in the deep waters and stormy waves of Galilee? How great, O Lord, has been thy mercy towards me; thou hast brought up my soul from the lowest hell !
We know that men have turned this doctrine to a bad purpose, just as to a bad purpose many turn the best gifts of providence. But it is no reason why the children should be starved that dogs sometimes steal their meat. The man who presumes on this doctrine to continue in sin because grace abounds, affords in his very presumption the plainest, strongest evidence that he never has been converted—just as the falling star by falling proves that it never was a true star, never was a thing of heaven, though it seemed to shoot through the stellar regions, and by a train of light illumined its dusky path, never was other than an atmospheric meteor, “ of the earth, earthy." The best, indeed, in a sense, will fall, and do often fall; but he who rises from his falls, whose sins are the occasions of bitter sorrow, whose peace is the child, and whose faith is the parent of love, can, I believe, no more drop out of Christ, than a true, God-made star, can drop out of heaven. He will keep that which God has committed to him. He will perfect that which concerneth them.
How can it be otherwise ? He is ever near to them that call upon him, and that never can happen to them which befell a child who had heedlessly wandered from its mother's side. She sought her darling all round her cottage, and wherever he had been wont to play. Alarmed, she rushed into the gloomy forest that grew by her moorland home; she called ; in frantic terror, she shrieked his name. No answer; he was a lost child. A child lost! the tidings spread like wild-fire through the hamlet; and some leaving business, others pleasure, the country-side rose for the search; and through that weary night, glen and mountain, moor and den, rung with the shouts, and gleamed with the lights of anxious searchers. The coming morn ushered in the Sabbath, but brought no rest. Believing that mercy was better than sacrifice, and that had He who came to seek and save the lost been there, He would have led the way, they resumed the search; and for the first time the feet of piety turned from the house of God. But all in vain. Now hope was burning low even in the mother's breast, and the stoutest hearts were sinking, when a woman,
guided doubtless by God to the spot, heard a feeble cry, • a low moaning sound. One thrill of joy, one bounding
spring, and there, with its dying face to heaven, lay the poor lost child before her on the cold ground, its young life ebbing fast, as it faintly cried, “ Mother, mother!" It was saved, yet how nearly lost; and nearly lost because it had wandered far from a mother's ear and a mother's eye. Its danger is never ours. From Christ no darkness hides, no distance parts us ;
and through whatever dangers his people have to pass, though they but turn the brink of the pit, the very edge of hell, though their escapes are so narrow that the righteous scarcely are saved, he will make good his words, I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish.
THE FIRST-BORN FROM THE DEAD.
The first-born from the dead; that in all things he might have the
pre-eminence.-Colossians i. 18.
DEATH is an event we do not attempt to shut out
of view. Here, our city has its cemeteries, which, by their taste and beauty, rather attract than repel a visit. There, where hoary trees fling their shadow on graves, stands the rural church, within whose humble walls the living worship in closest neighbourhood with the dead; a type of heaven, the approach to that sanctuary is by a path which passes through the realms of death. When death occurs among us, friends and neighbours are invited to the funeral; and in broad day the sad procession, following the nodding hearse, wends slowly along our most public streets. The spot that holds our dead we sometimes visit, and always regard as a sort of sacred ground ; there a monument is raised to record their virtues ; or a willow, with its weeping branches flung over the grave, expresses our grief; or a pine or laurel, standing there in evergreen beauty when frosty blasts have stripped the woods, symbolises the hopes of the living, and the immortality of the dead; or our hand plants some sweet flowers, which,
though they shed their blossoms as our hopes were shed, and hide their heads awhile beneath the turf, spring up again to remind us how the dear ones who there sleep in Jesus are awaiting the resurrection of the just.
I have read of a tribe of savages that have very different customs. - They bury their dead in secret, by the hands of unconcerned officials. No grassy mound, no memorial stone guides the poor mother's steps to the quiet corner where her infant lies. The grave is levelled with the soil; and afterwards, as some to forget their loss drive the world and its pleasures over their hearts, a herd of cattle is driven over and over the ground, till every trace of the burial has been obliterated by their hoofs. Anxious to forget death and its inconsolable griefs, these heathen resent any allusion to the dead. You may not speak of them. In a mother's hearing, name, however tenderly, her lost one, recall a dead father to the memory of his son, and there is no injury which they feel more deeply. From the thought of the dead their hearts recoil.
How strange! How unnatural! No, not unnatural. Benighted heathen, their grief has none of the alleviations which are balm to our wounds, none of the hopes that bear us up beneath a weight of sorrows. Their dead are sweet flowers withered, never to revive; joys gone, never to return. To remember them is to keep open a rankling wound, and preserve the memory of a loss which was bitter to feel and still is bitter to think of; a loss which brought only grief to the living, and no gain to the dead. To me, says Paul, to live is Christ,