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drear silence! And more welcome to our eye than the flush of summer's gayest flowers, is the simple snowdrop that hangs its pure white bell above the dead bare ground. And why? These are the first-born of the year, the forerunners of a crowd to follow. In that group of silver bells that ring in the spring with its joys, and loves, and singing birds, my fancy's eye sees the naked earth clothed in beauty, the streams, like children let loose, dancing, and laughing, and rejoicing in their freedom, bleak winter gone, and nature's annual resurrection. And in that solitary simple note, my fancy hears the carol of larks, wild moor, hillside, and woodlands full of song, and ringing all with music. And in Christ, the first-born, I see the grave giving up its dead; from the depths of the sea, from lonely wilderness and crowded churchyard they come, like the dews of the grass, an innumerable multitude. Risen Lord! we rejoice in thy resurrection. We hail it as the harbinger and blessed pledge of our own. The first to come forth, thou art the elder brother of a family, whose countless numbers the patriarch saw in the dust of the desert, whose holy beauty he saw shining in the bright stars of heaven.
The first-born! This spoils the grave of its horrors, changing the tomb into a capacious womb that death is daily filțing with the germs of life. The first fruits ! This explains why men called the churchyard, as once they did, God's acre. Looking at these grassy mounds in the light of that expression, the eye of faith sees it change into a field sown with the seeds of immortality. Blessed field! What flowers shall spring there! What a harvest shall be gathered there! In the neighboring fields" whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap;" but here how great the difference between what
is sown amid mourners' tears, and what shall be reaped amid angels' joys; between the poor body we restore to the earth, and the noble form that shall spring from its ashes. Who saw the rolling waves stand up a rocky wall; who saw the water of Cana flow out rich purple wine ; who saw Lazarus's festering corpse, with health glowing on its cheek, and its arms enfolding sisters ready to faint with joy, saw nothing to match the change the grave shall work on these mouldering bones. Sown in corruption, they shall rise in incorruption, mortal putting on immortality. How beautiful they shall be! Never more shall hoary.time write age on a wrinkled brow. The whole terrible troop of diseases cast with sin into hell, the saints shall possess unfading beauty, and enjoy a perpetual youth ; a pure soul shall be mated with a worthy partner in a perfect body, and an angel form shall lodge an angel mind. There shall be no more death, nor sighing, nor sorrow, for there shall be no more sin.
If we are reconciled to God through Jesus Christ, what reconciling views of death does this open up to us? Why don't we think better of death, and oftener of death? No doubt his hand is rough, and his voice is gruff, and, rudely seizing us by the throat, as if he were an officer and we were the prisoners of justice, he has none of the courtly manners of Eleazer when he went to bring his bride home to Isaac ; yet why should those things make us overlook so much the glittering crown he brings in his grisly hand, the message he brings us to come away home. We should be much happier if we familiarised our minds with this event, and trained ourselves to think of death more as glory than as death, as our return to our Father and our Father's house, as going home to be with Jesus and
the saints; or, if you will have death in, as the death of all sin and sorrow, as the death of Death. To a child of God, what are its pains but the pangs of birth; its battle, but the struggle that precedes the victory; its tossings but the swell and surf that beats on the shores of eternal life; its grave but a bed of peaceful rest, where the bodies of saints sleep out the night that shall fly away for ever before the glories of a resurrection morn.
I know a churchyard where this is strikingly set forth in the rude sculpturing of a burial stone. Beneath an angel figure, that, with outstretched wings and trumpet at the mouth, blows the resurrection, there lies a naked skull. Beneath the angel, and beside this emblem of mortality, two forms stand ; one is the tenant of the grave below, the other it is impossible to mistake, it is the skeleton figure of the King of Terrors. His dart lies on the ground broken in two, and the hand that has dropped it is stretched out over the skull, and held in the grasp of the other figure. Enemies reconciled, the man bravely shakes hands with death, and his whole air and bearing show that they are become sworn friends. As if he had just heard Jesus announcing, I am the resurrection and the life, you seem to hear him saying, () death where is thy sting, O grave where is thy victory ? The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law; but thanks be to God who giveth me the victory through my Lord Jesus Christ.
We shall rise like Him who, in his own resurrection, and in the church he has redeemed with his own blood, and in the universe he created by his own power, has the preëminence, the unchallenged precininence. Let him have it in our thoughts, our lives, our hearts. Who but he should have it? Holy Spirit! enable us
to enthrone in our hearts him whom his Father hath enthroned in the heaven of heavens. Preëminence! Shall we give it to the world that hated him, to the devil that tempted him, to the sins that crucified him ? Gracious God, forbid! Let Jesus have the preëminence! Help us, Lord, to love thee best, to serve thee first, to follow thee, leaving all to follow thee. If, in one sense, we cannot say, Whom have I in heaven but thee, because there we may have father and mother, brother and sister, and sweet children whom we loved, and love still, and will rejoice again to embrace, we would say, Thou art the chiefest among ten thousand, thou art altogether lovely. If, in one sense, we cannot say, There is none upon earth that I desire beside thee, we would say, there is none on all the earth that I desire before thee, nor deem equal to thee. Blessed Lord, thy love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women. To thee, as the sun of my firmament, may the moon and stars make obeisance; to thee, as the needle to its pole, may my trembling heart be ever turning ; to thee, as the waters seek the ocean, may my desires be ever flowing. Bend every sheaf to Joseph's! Jesus, the best be thine, the honor thine, the glory thine, the kingdom thine. The feast to thee, the fragments to others. This ever be my question, not What can I spare from myself for Christ, but What can I spare from Christ for myself? Be thou preferred above my chief joy. In all things have thou the preëminence !
It pleased the Father, that in Him should all fullness dwell.-
COLOSSIANS i. 19.
Our happiness depends in a very small degree upon what is external to us. Its springs lie deep within ; like those waters that, warm in winter and cold in summer, have their fountains bordered with evergreen grass. Yet, how common it is to think otherwise ! Hence the keen pursuit of pleasure, lovers' sighs, war's fierce ambition, the student's patient labor as he feeds his midnight lamp with the oil of life, the panting race for riches, the desperate struggles some make to keep themselves from sinking into poverty, and the toil and trouble others endure, to say nothing of the sins which these may alike commit, to rise in the world, as it is called—to keep a better table, to wear a better dress, to live in a better house than satisfied their humble, but happier parents. These paths, crowded and beaten down though they be by the feet of thousands who are treading on each other's heels, never yet conducted any man to happiness. Never. It lies in another direction. Whatever be his condition, be he poor or rich, pining on a sick bed or with health glowing on his cheek, to be married or to be hanged to morrow “ Blessed,” or, as we should say, Happy, "is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed