Page images

hare welcomed that! His was no such enviable, happy fortune. Death struck him-like a tree, which first withers at the top--in the head ; and, in excruciating sufferings protracted over weary years, he suffered the pain of a hundred deaths. His endurance was heroic, and never failed but once. Once, for pity's sake, for the love she bore him, he implored his wife to tear out his eyes—an expression of impatience, recalled as soon as uttered ; regretted on earth, and forgiven in heaven. Now, never as by that bed, where I have seen him turn, and twist, and writhe, like a trodden worm, have I felt so much the power of the consolation of which I speak. Happy was it that religion was not then to seek ; and that, beside a wife struck dumb with grief, and little children who stood still and saddened by the sight of a father's agony, I could bend over a pillow, wet with the sweat of suffering, and implore him to remember that these pains were not eternal, and that the Saviour who loved him, and whom he loved, would, ere long, come to take him to himself. In such a scene what comfort in the words

"Time and the hour runs through the roughest day.”

Nor is this unscriptural comfort. The transient nature of all earthly trials is one important ingredient of that cordial with which Paul comforts sorrowing believers Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. Nay, may not that have been poured by the angel's hand into the very cup of redeeming sorrows ? When our Lord was alone in the garden, and death's cold shadow had begun to fall, and the gloon of the approaching storm was settling down

upon his soul, an angel sped from heaven to strengthen him. He finds him prostrate before God. His face is on the ground. In an agony of supplication he has thrown himself at his Father's feet; and, shrinking from the pains of the cross, he cries, Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me. At that eventful moment, with the salvation of the world hung on its issues, may not the angel, reverently approaching this awful and affecting scene, have strengthened our Saviour, and revived his fainting spirit with this comfort, Lord of Glory, drink ; the cup is bitter, but not bottomless ? It is no presumption to fancy that, pointing to the moon as she rode in heaven, he had reminded our Redeemer that ere she had set and risen again, his pangs should all be over ; and that when next she rose, it should be to shine upon an empty cup, and an empty cross, and Roman sentinels keeping watch beside his sleeping form and peaceful tomb. Something of this, indeed, our Lord seems to intimate in the words he addressed to the traitor's band—“This is your hour, and the power of darkness." They may bind these hands ; but they shall soon be free to rend the strongest barriers of the tomb, leaving him to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound. With the foul shame of thorns, with spitting, and with scornful rejection, they may hide his glory ; but it shall burst forth, like the sun above his dying head, from the shadow of a strange eclipse. Let them put forth their utmost power ; its triumph shall be brief-shut up within the limits of a passing hour.

Does not the same idea also appear in the words which our Lord addressed to the traitor at the supper table? As one who, though shrinking from the suff.

ings of a severe operation, feels confident of relief, and braces up his spirit to endurance by setting permanent ease over against a passing pain, Jesus bent his eye on Judas, and said, “That thou doest, do quickly,"—do it, and have done with it ; I know it shall not last ; I am not to be buried but baptized in sufferings ; from the cross where it shall bow in death-exposed on a bloody tree; from the grave where it shall lie in dust

-pillowed on a lonesome bed, shall mine head be lifted above mine enemies round about me ; so that thou doest, do quickly ; I foresee an end of sorrows, and long to enter upon my rest. Now, the relief which death brought to Christ, blessed be God, it brings to all that are Christ's. The passing bell rings out sin with all its sorrows, and rings in eternity with all its joys. And the very same event which plunges the unbeliever into everlasting perdition, ushers the believer into the inheritance of the saints in light. With gladness and rejoicing they shall be brought ; they shall enter into the palace of the king. Before taking up the subject of the translation, this leads me to remark

I. That in delivering his people from the power of darkness, Christ saves them from eternal perdition.

The punishment which sin deserves, and which the impenitent and unbelieving suffer, is a very awful subject-one on which I could have no pleasure in dwelling. It is a deeply solemn theme; a terrible mystery ; one in presence of which we stand in trembling awe, and can only say with David - Clouds and darkness are round about him.

It is a painful thing to see the dying of a poor dog, or any dumb creature suffer : but the fate of the im. penitent, the sorrows that admit of no consolation, the misery that has no end - these form a subject brimful of horrors; the deepest, darkest, unfathomed mystery in the whole plan of the divine government. Yet what affords no pleasure may, notwithstanding, yield profit; and that even by reason of the pain it inflicts. And so, in the hope of such a blessed result, let me warn, and beseech, and implore careless sinners to be wise, and consider this solemn matter in the day of their merciful visitation. Better fear that punishment than feel it; better look into the pit than fall into it ; better than fill your ears with syren songs of pleasure, listen to this warning voice,“ Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” “ To-day, if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts.” The chains which bind you are yet but locked, and the gospel has a key to open them. Reject that gospel, and what is now but locked by the hand of sin, shall be rivetted by the hand of death-like the fetters on the limbs of him who leaves the bar to suffer that most awful sentence, the doom of perpetual imprisonment. “As the tree falls, so it lies.” “ He that is filthy, let him be filthy still.”

People talk about the mercy of God in a way for which they have no warrant in his word ; and, ignoring his holiness, and justice, and truth, they lay this and the other vain hope as a flattering unction to their souls. Thinking light of sin, seeing no great harm in it, they judge God by themselves. “ Thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself,” accounts for the manner in which many explain away the awful revelations of Scripture about future punishment, and in the face of such terrible words as these, “ Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for

the devil and his angels,” give such a ready ear to the devil's old falsehood, Thou shalt not surely die. The fire, they allege, and are sure, is a mere symbol. Well, just look by the light of that symbol at the condition of the lost. Fire! What does that mean? Take it as a symbol, grant that it is but a figure of speech, still it has a terrible meaning, as will be manifest, if we consider the nature and characteristic features of that element. Let us see.

According to the imperfect science of the world's early ages, there were four elements, of which ancient philosophers held that all things else were compounded. These were fire, air, earth, and water ; and from the other three, the first is strikingly distinguished by this peculiar and well-marked feature, that it is destructive of all life. Let us examine this matter somewhat in detail,

1. The element of earth is associated with life. Prolific mother, from whose womb we come, and to whose bosom we return, she is pregnant with life, an exhaustless storehouse of its germs. Raise the soil, for example, from the bottom of deepest well or darkest mine. And as divine truths, lodged in the heart by a mother in early childhood, though they have lain long dormant, spring up into conversion so soon as God's time comes and the Spirit descends, so seeds, that have lain in the soil for a thousand years, whenever they are exposed to the quickening influences of heat, and light, and air, and moisture, awake from their long sleep, and rise up into forms of grace and beauty. Nowhere but within the narrow wall of the churchyard—with its earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust-are death and the dust associated. Even there

« PreviousContinue »