صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

the sacrificial theory which is salvation to his brother, seems a cruelty and an injustice, confusing moral distinctions, and without connection with the struggles of his beating heart. The quiet aspects of nature, repudiating each wrong with the calm rebuke of chastened purity, and solemnly overpowering the noisy tide of business with quiet messages of everlasting wisdom, influence his soul far more divinely than the gorgeous ceremonies of an artistic superstition. The simple form of the Hero Saint, with loving accents shedding glory on pale dying lips-from the Cross as from a throne breathing benediction—is unto him far more in its natural simplicity as an example of human struggle and human triumph in the mercy and

grace of the Lord, than when it becomes the centre of a huge scheme of metaphysical mechanism. And this man's heart, if it breathe the same penitential prayer, shall also testify to its times and seasons when the presence of a Heavenly Father has wakened hope amid tears, and when the resolve of high endeavour has triumphed over the feverish unrest of sin.

Thus (as a matter of plain fact and daily experience) does the Lord our God in many ways bring wandering hearts unto Himself, answering Pharisaic exclusiveness with an abounding mercy.

If, then, O my brethren! we would know our own characters, and, knowing, arise more noble in purpose and in deed

if we would do any justice to our neighbours—if we would indeed worship a living God,

let our prayer be no boast against a brother, but a penitent upbreathing for our own transgressions. Discontented with what we are, may we look upwards to what we are not-to the right not yet apprehended -to the duty not yet done—to the divine life, yet a visionary hope—to the Christ and the God not yet known in the fulness of their majesty. The resistance of egotistical pride surmounted, aspiration rises heavenward with steady wing, and the answering God draws near. Never yet did the sin-stricken soul pour forth the confession of its weakness, and seek, however painfully, the better life, without receiving an access of responding Grace divine.

Pharisaic pride may boast, “Lord, I thank Thee I am not as other men. Is not this mighty church MINE-MINE the protection of its thunders and the paradise of its faith ?” Or Pharisaic pride may boast the exact opposite : “Lord, I thank Thee I am not as other men—not mine their superstitionsnot mine their follies—not mine the absurdities of their easy credulousness." All of us, in every church and station, may yield to the besetting pride; and in proportion to our yielding, will the Lord God turn away His face, however clever our arguments and true our creed.

But the lowly and contrite spirit of the true Christian disciple repents its sins and utters its unquestioning trust in the perfect mercy of the living God, it may be in the proud cathedral before the gorgeous altar, it may be in the meeting-house of a frigid Calvinism, it may be in the solitary walk-and that humble confession wins the unceasing benediction; and nearer Heaven than the reputable Pharisee whose worship of God is a scorn of man, is the erring Publican beset before and behind by many temptations, yet still in the hour of trial, although standing afar off and not daring to lift so much as his eyes to heaven, beating his breast and crying, “ Lord be merciful to me, a sinner!"



JOB vii, 9, 10 : “As the cloud is consumed and vanisheth away ; so he that goeth down to

the grave, shall come up no more : he shall return no more to his house, neither shall his place know him any more."

Such is indeed the destiny of man, as it is unfolded to his untutored, unenlightened mind, by a narrow and gloomy survey of the facts which bound his observation and his hope within the limits of his present, mortal existence. Born of parents who are themselves destined for the grave; compelled, by his own experience of sickness, exhaustion, and pain, to believe in the frailty and perishableness of the materials of which his body is composed ; and observing, as he moves about through the world, that multitudes of beings formed and endowed like himself, are continually disappearing from the earth, and coming up no more, to mingle among the living; he must of necessity acknowledge the truth of Job's lamentation in my text, and learn to look forward to a time when he too shall cease to be found in the place which now owns him for its inhabitant.

It is, therefore, indisputably true, that, as surely as “the cloud” scattered by the winds of heaven and wasting itself in showers, is gradually “consumed” until it “vanisheth” completely away; so, when man's appointed time upon earth is spent, “ he goeth down to the grave and cometh up no more,”

and that, when his flesh returns to the dust from which it was taken, his bodily presence is no more recognized within “his house :” he is never again found in any of the-scenes of business or of social intercourse, to which he was accustomed to resort; and the vast, complicated operations of the world above his silent resting-place, go on much as they did before his departure, without his having any conscious part in their direction or their results. But is this the whole of the truth, respecting the “house ” and the "place" from which he has been taken? Has he left behind him no influences for good or for evil, which shall tell upon the characters and the conditions of his associates in life, long after his body shall have mouldered into dust ? Does no impression of his existence remain in society, to supply a stronger memento of his passage through this mortal scene, than is recorded in the bare facts of his birth and his death engraven on his tomb-stone? Has no intellectual or moral

power of his nature perpetuated the memory of his being or his doings, in the midst of the scenes which contributed their stores to his subsistence and enjoyment?

A brighter revelation than ever beamed over the mind which uttered this piteous lamentation over the mortal doom of our race, has since dispelled the anxiety and the gloom which in former ages surrounded every contemplation of the fate which awaited man as an inhabitant of the earth. It has shewn, that in the design and operations of the Most High who ruleth over all, there is established a universal connexion and relationship among the members of the great family, to which we belong as rational and accountable beings. It has opened our eyes to the fact, the knowledge of which is most intimately connected with our duties and our interests, that “no man liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself :"' and it is continually impressing upon us the solemn, yet animating and encouraging truth, that the season of our life may be devoted to ends and purposes which our individual deaths shall not be the means of rendering abortive ; but that the right use of our time and talents while we abide in our earthly “house,” and the wise and regular disciplining of our minds and souls in religion and virtue, shall prepare ourselves for “a mansion in the heavens, not made with hands," and bequeath a store of good and powerful influences to the world which we shall leave behind us, when we “go down into the grave, to come up no more.”

Though, therefore, there is a proposition expressed in my text, of indubitable certainty and of dread import, affecting us and all the inhabitants of the earth in relation to our position and continuance here ; there is yet a truth beyond and above what it declares of our destiny and our duty-a truth, which at once impresses upon our hearts the awful responsibilities and invaluable purposes of life, and mingles with our convictions on these important subjects, the most solemn remonstrances respecting our insecurity and mortality, as motives to activity, fidelity, and perseverance, in the works to which nature and religion summon us in the scenes of the present world.

“ The cloud” may be consumed” and vanish away, and yet its influence may be traced in the place over which its shadow passed. We may look in vain for its form, in the expanse of the heavens, where we lately beheld it radiant with beauty or louring in gloom ; but, turn we to the landscape beneath, and we find that the rills of the mountains and the pastures of the valleys have been enriched with the treasures which, in the progress of its dissolution, it has scattered in fertilizing showers over the land. So with the wise, the gifted, the benevolent, of our race : they pass away, with the revolving seasons of time; but their lessons, their examples, and their works, remain after them, in the impressions which they have left on the age to which they respectively belonged. And, though the results of their honourable activity may, in their individual character and sphere of operation, seem to be of little importance ; yet, under the direction of that Divine

elligence which presides over all things, they have each a separate influence in the world for good, and they all serve, in their united tendencies, to swell the mighty stream of human civilization, which in its onward progress is destined to convey

« السابقةمتابعة »