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from which we shall never rise up; to have our bodies turned to dust, and our souls go into the world of spirits to appear before God, and pass the all-decisive trial, and enter upon a state of being that is never to change,—these are events which may well make mortals tremble and shrink back at their approach. So the dying nobleman felt, whom I have more than once referred to, when he said,—a condemned wretch may, with as good a grace, go dancing to his execution, as the greatest part of mankind go on with such a thoughtless gayety to their graves. A future state, said the Duke of Buckingham, dying in despair, may well strike terror into a man who has not acted well in life; and he must have an uncommon share of courage indeed who does not shrink at the presence of God. And when Lord Chesterfield, skeptic and devotee of pleasure as he was, was compelled to acknowledge, as the closing scene drew on,—When one does see death near, let the best or the worst people say what they please, it is a serious consideration. Remorse for the past, exclaimed the dying Altamont, throws my thoughts on the future. Worse dread of the future strikes them back on the past. I turn and turn, and find no ray. Death is knocking at my doors; in a few hours more I shall draw my last gasp; and then the judgment, the tremendous judgment! IIow shall I appear, all unprepared as I am, before the all-knowing and omnipotent God ? O eternity, eternity, cried the distracted Newport, as he lay upon his death-bed, contemplating the solemn scenes before him, who can paraphrase on the words for ever and ever?
Such are the confessions that are wont to be made by dying men; such the feelings and thoughts that crowd upon the mind as the last hour approaches. And in view of them we may remark,
1. They are founded in truth; there is just cause for them. It is true that life is short, and that time is of infinite value. It is true that this world contains nothing which can satisfy the wants of the immortal mind. It is true that a moral life is utterly insufficient as a preparation for death and the judgment. It is true that an irreligious life is a life of extreme folly and presumption, and that a saving interest in Christ is a matter of supreme importance to every living man. It is true that it is a solemn thing to die and go into eternity, to appear before a holy God. And the wonder is, not that dying men should feel these things to be true, and be deeply affected by them, but that living men should treat them with indifference, and go through the world contradicting the feelings and views which are sure to crowd upon them with overwhelming interest in the day of death. lIere is just matter of astonishment; and of all the strange things that are witnessed in the conduct of our fallen race, this is the strangest, that men should walk in the midst of graves, convey their own friends and acquaintances to the house of silence, and meet every day and in every path of life with the most solemn monitions of their own approaching end, and still live as though they were never to die, and shut their eyes on scenes which must soon burst upon them in all the weight and solemnity of a present eternity. I remark,
2. That many of my hearers will, in a short time, view this subject in a very different light from that in which they now contemplate it. Some of you are young, and in the buoyant feelings of youth and health scarcely think it possible that you may soon be called to death and the judgment. Some of you are profoundly careless of your immortal well-being, and are so enamored of the things of the world that you seldom think of your latter end, or of what you need to prepare you to die. Others of you are perhaps skeptical as to the reality of a change of heart to fit you for the closing scene, and are trusting to a moral life as a foundation of hope in the coming day of trial; others of you still, who bear the Christian name, are probably deceived as to the ground of your hope, or are living in a state of backsliding from God, awfully unprepared for his summons to leave the world. To all such the Son of Man is likely to come in an hour they think not of; and when he comes, they will be thrown into fearful consternation, and the dreams with which they are now deluded will vanish'forever. You have heard what is the testimony of dying men on some points of infinite moment to yourselves, but which you at present regard with little feeling, and treat with great neglect. But the time is not distant when you shall join your testimony with those that have gone before you into the invisible world; when the scene of life shall close, and your eternal state commence.
And whatever be your present views and feelings, it is not in the least doubtful what they will be then. Should you die in the exercise of your reason, you will look back with amazement on your present course of life, and wonder how you could be so infatuated as to neglect God and your souls, and make no preparation for the solemn scenes of a dying hour. Those of you who are now young will then learn that you are not too young to die; and those of you who are living securely in sin, that it is indeed a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God; and those of you who are trusting to a moral life, that you are trusting to a foundation of sand; and those of you who are cold and formal in religion, that in such a state of mind you are sadly unprepared to die, and render up your account unto God. Death will bring your hearts and lives to a new and severe test, and draw from all of you the confession, that to fear God and keep his commandments is the first duty and the highest wisdom and happiness of every living man. Í remark,
3. It is the part of true wisdom to cherish those views and feelings now, which we know we shall regard as of supreme importance when we come to die. Why should any spend life in treasuring materials for sorrow, disappointment, and despair in the dying hour? Why should any gather food for the worm that never dies, or fuel for the fire that is never quenched? If, as we draw near to death, we shall regard life as very short, and time as infinitely valuable, let us regard them so now, and be quickened to do with our might whatsoever our hands find to do. If we shall then feel that this world is a poor thing, considered as a portion for the soul, let us view it in that light now, and choose God as our portion, and heaven as our home. If a hope of acceptance with God, built on a mere moral life, will then perish as a spider's web and leave us in despair, let us renounce that vain confidence now, and build our hope on that sure corner-stone which God has laid in Zion, and which will never disappoint us. If an impenitent, irreligious life will then appear to us the greatest folly, and a saving interest in Christ the one thing needful, let us not pursue such a life any longer, but close at once with the Saviour, and follow him as our Lord and Master unto the end of our days. And if when the end comes we shall find it indeed a solemn thing to die and go into eternity to appear before God, let us regard it so now, and make that preparation which will sustain us in the last conflict, and give us peace in the day of final decision.
Look forward, then, immortal man, and endeavor to realize what will be your feelings and views in the dying hour, and if you would be wise, begin without delay to cherish those sentiments and pursue that course of life which you will then wish you had; which will save you from remorse and self-reproach and bitter despair in the great day of the Lord.
"Nothing,' surely, "is worth a thought beneath, but how we may escape that death that never, never dies; how make our own election sure, and when we fail on earth, secure a mansion in the skies."
4. The confessions of dying men are of no avail, only as they indicate the folly of sin and the value of religion. They do not change the character--they do not fit the soul for death or for heaven. Of the many instances mentioned in this discourse of wicked men being awakened at the close of life to some just view of their character and state, there is not one in which there is any evidence that they repented and embraced the salvation of the Gospel. Their groans, like those of the damned, come up to proclaim the miseries of sin, and to warn the living to avoid their wretched end. It is not the remorse and fear of a dying hour; it is not the shudderings of guilt, and the confusions and tears which are wrung from sinners when they find
they can enjoy the world no longer, but must go and give an account of themselves unto God, that can avail to change the heart and prepare the soul for the inheritance of the saints in light. The strong bands of sin are not so dissolved, nor is it so that the love of God and Christ is inspired in the bosom, and meetness acquired for a place among the redeemed in heaven. No, dear hearer; if you put off religion till you come to a deathbed, you will probably be left to put it off forever. You will not find it so easy as you suppose to cast off the babits of sin, to believe in Christ, and make your peace with God. You may be awakened to see your sin and misery; you may bewail the stupidity and folly of your past life; your misspent time, your abuse of privileges, your neglects of calls and warnings; the terrors of death and the pains of hell may get hold upon you, and you may cry in agony of spirit for help; but God may leave you, as he has other despisers of mercy, awfui monuments to warn those who survive you of the danger of trifling with the claims of religion and the high concerns of eternity. Be wise, then, in this your day, to attend to the things which belong to your peace, lest they be hid forever from your eyes. Go learn the value of religion in the peaceful and triumphant death of those that die in the Lord; go learn its value in the remorse and despair of those that die in neglect of Christ and his salvation. Then look to the end of life, and remember that with one or the other of these two classes of persons you are to terminate your mortal career; that with the friends of God, the followers of Jesus, you are to bear your testimony to the value of religion in the joy and hope that will then fill your bosom, or with the enemies of God and the neglecters of the Saviour, you are to bear your testimony to the guilt and misery of an irreligious, prayerless life, in the remorse and fear that will then agitate and corrode the soul. Which, then, will you do?which does conscience admonish you to do?-- which will you wish you had done in the day when you shall bid adieu to the scenes of earth, and go to dwell among the dead? Decide now, and let your life be regulated accordingly. Decide now, and let no day nor hour of the year on which you have just entered find you unprepared to meet the summons, should it come, that is to call you out of time into eternity. Hear the voices of those who, during the year past, departed from this congregation into the world of spirits--eleven in all, ten of whom were members of the church, and died, I trust, in good hope of eternal life. Would you die like them, and have your last end like theirs ? Then, as you stand upon the threshold of this new year, with its unknown events before you, retreat awhile from the snares and delusions of the world; shut your eyes upon the scenes of time, upon which they must soon
be closed forever, and converse with the world to come—with death, judgment, and eternity. Go stand upon the shores of that dark, vast ocean you must sail so soon, and listen to the sound of its waves till you are deaf to every sound besides, and then with those solemn scenes around and before you, endeavor, with all earnestness and diligence, to gather about you those resources of faith and piety which you will assuredly nced in the day when you shall be called to meet that enemy whom you must conquer, or die forever.
THE POWER OF CHRISTIANITY.
"I can do all things through Christ, which strengtheneth me."--Pml. 4: 13.
This is one of those comprehensive declarations which we occasionally meet with in Scripture, and especially in the writings of Paul, in which the whole system of Christianity seems to be compressed into a single sentence. For what is Christianity but a revelation of the all-sufficiency of Christ to meet the impotence of man? Paul, with all his native and acquired intellectual energy, was, as a sinner, the heir of moral death ; and even as a saint, he was the heir of an undisputed moral weakness; for we have his own testimony to the fact, that when he "would do good, evil” was present with ” him. Nevertheless, through Christ, he was mighty. In proportion as he was baptised with the Spirit of Christ, there was vigor in his thoughts, there was heroism in his heart, there was nerve in his arm, for the accomplishment of anything, for the endurance of anything to which the honor of his Master called him. And as it was with Paul, so it is with all Christ's followers. In themselves they are compassed about with many infirmities; they are often oppressed with a sense of their own weakness, and yet in Christ they have a tower of strength; they are mighty, through him, even to the pulling down of strongholds.
The inward exercises of the Christian, not less than the doctrines which he believes, bear, in no inconsiderable degree, even to himself, a mysterious character. The proposition contained in our text every Christian knows to be true as a matter of experience, and up to a certain point he comprehends it, and is JANUARY, 1851.