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how does life, contending for the mastery of this world, intrude upon death's silent domains, and both in the grass that waves above, and the foul worms that feed below, claim the earth as her own! This earth is far less the tomb than a great prolific womb of life. Of its matter life builds her shrines; beneath its surface myriads of creeping things have their highways and homes ; while its soil yields bountiful support to the forests, and flowers, and grasses, that clothe its naked form in gayest robes of life and beauty.
2. Air, too, is an element associated with life. Invisible substance, it is as much our food as corn or flesh. Symbol of the Holy Spirit, it feeds the vital flame, and is essential to the existence of all plants and animals, whether their home be the land or water, the ocean or its shores. They live by breathing it, whether it be extracted from the waters by their inhabitants, or directly from the atmosphere by the plants and animals that dwell on the dry land. Ceasing to breathe it, they die. With that groan, or gasp, or long-drawn sigh, man expires. His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth ; in that very day his thoughts perish. And as life exists on air, it exists in it; nor ever presents itself in a fuller, happier aspect, than at the serene close, for instance, of a summer day. The air is filled with the music of a thousand choristers ; creation's evening hymn, sung by many voices, and in many notes, goes up to the ear of God; and, while the lark supplies music from the ringing heavens, nature holds innocent revels below ; and happy insects, by sparkling stream, or the sedgy borders of the placid lake, keep up their mazy merry dances, till God puts out the lights, and, satiated with enjoyment, they retire to rest, wrapped
round in the curtains of the night. Figure of the truth that in God we live, and move, and have our being, our world itself, with all that lives on it, is a sphere that floats, buoyant and balanced, in an ocean of air.
3. Water, too, is an element associated with life. Fit emblem of saving mercies, so indispensable is water to the continued existence of life, that unless it be furnished by some source or other, all plants and animals must speedily die. Then how does this element, which covers more than two-thirds of the surface of our globe, teem with life! He has not seen one of the wonders of creation, who has not seen a drop of water changed, by the microscope, into a little world full of living, active, perfect, creatures, over whom a passing bird throws the shadow of an eclipse, and whose brief life of an hour or day seems to them as long as to us a century of years. Imagination attempts in vain to form some conception of the myriads that, all creatures of God's care, inhabit the living waters—the rushing stream, the mountain lake, the shallow shore, the profound depths of ocean—from the minutest insect which finds a home in some tiny pool, or its world on the leaf of the swaying sea-weed, to leviathan, around whose mighty bulk, whether in play or rage, the deep grows hoary, and foams like a boiling pot. How soon we abandon the attempt, and, dropping the wings of fancy, fall on our knees before the throne to say, O Lord, how manifold are thy works! in wisdom hast thou made them all.
Mark, now, the broad and outstanding difference between these elements and fire. Earth and life, air and life, water and life, are not, as we have seen, necessarily antagonistic; but fire and life are. Unless under such miraculous circumstances as those in which the three Hebrew children walked unhurt in the furnace, or the mountain bush, as if bathed in dew, flowered amid the flames, life cannot exist in fire under any shape or form. No creature feeds, or breeds, or breathes in flames. What the winds fan, and the soil nourishes, and the dews refresh, fire kills. It scorches whatever it touches, and whatever breathes it, dies. Turning the stateliest tree, and sweetest flowers, and loveliest form of the daughters of Eve, into a heap of ashes, or a coal-black cinder, fire is the tomb of beauty, and the sepulchre of all life; the only region and realm within which death reigns, with none to dispute his sway. And thus the characteristic feature of this elementbesides the pain it inflicts-is the destruction and death it works.
Suppose, then, that the fire that is never quenched is but a painted flame-grant that it is nothing but a symbol or figure of the punishment which awaits the impenitent and unbelieving, in what respects have they, who have persuaded themselves of that, improved their prospects? It is, “ as if a man did flee from a lion, and a bear met him ; or went into the house, and leaned his hand on the wall, and a serpent bit him.” Although the language of Scripture were figurative, yet expressing, as it does, the utter consumption and death of all hope and happiness, it is not less madness for any one to reject the Saviour, and for the enjoyment of a passing pleasure to brave so terrible a doom. Endless misery—the worm that never dieth, and the fire that is never quenched-in whatever shape it comes, is an awful thought. We cannot think of it without shuddering. Oh, why should any hear of it without fleeing in. stantly to Jesus ; for who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? who among us shall dwell with everlasting burning? I do not undertake to defend God's procedure in this matter. He will defend it himself, and one day justify his ways, in the judgment even of those whom he condemns. They shall not have the miserable consolation of complaining that they have been hardly and unjustly dealt with. The sentence that condemns them shall find an awful echo in their own consciences. How they shall blame themselves, and regret their life, and curse their folly—turning their stings against their own bosoms, as the scorpion, maddened with pain, is said to do, when surrounded by a circle of fire!
Before we leave this subject, let us all join in thanksgiving, both saints and sinners. Let the people praise thee, O God ; let all the people praise thee. Fascinated, bewitched by pleasure, do you still linger beside the pit, notwithstanding, perhaps, that its flames are rising fearfully lurid against the darkening skies of a fast descending night? Be thankful that you are not in the pit: and falling on your knees by its horrible brink, let its miserable captives, who envy you your time of prayer, hear your cry for mercy, and that that gracious long-suffering God, who has preserved you to this day as a monument of his sparing, would now make you a monument of his saving mercy. And how should saints praise him! How should they praise him, who have exchanged the horrible fear of hell for a holy happy fear of God, and—in a good hope through grace, that they have been delivered from the power of darkness, and translated into the kingdom of his dear Son-enjoy a peace that passeth understanding. “ Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.” Blessed, more blessed than if he had the wealth of Creesus, the poorest, humblest, weakest child of God, who can say with David-He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings. It is beautiful to see a bird spring from its grassy bed, mounting up on strong wing into a morning sky of amber, and ruby, and gold, and sapphir, and to hear her, as she climbs the heavens, sing out the joy which God has poured into her little heart in a thrilling gush of music; but, oh, if God's people through more purity enjoyed more peace of heart, were they as holy, and therefore as happy as they might be, how would angels stay their flight, and pause upon the wing to watch the rise, and listen to the song of him who, as he rises, sings—my soul is escaped as a bird out of the snare of the fowler : the snare is broken, and we are escaped. “Happy is that people, that is in such a case: yea, happy is that people, whose God is the Lord.”
II. Consider how we are brought into this kingdom.
Translation is the expression used to describe the method. There is a difference between being transformed and being translated ; in so far as the first describes a change of character, while the second describes a change of state. These changes are coincidentthey take place at the same time; but the transformation is not completed, nor are saints made perfect in holiness, until the period arrives for a second translation. Then those who were translated at conversion into a state of grace, are translated at death into a state of glory. The transformation of the soul into the image of God, and of God's dear Son, begins at the first translation, and is finished at the second. And it