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النشر الإلكتروني

SERMON DXLI.

BY REV. JAMES M. MACDONALD,

FIFTEENTH STREET CHURCH, N. Y.

INFLUENOE AFTER DEATH. "He being dead, yet speaketh"-HEBREWS 11 : 4. Among the numerous examples which the Apostles gives in this chapter, to illustrate the nature and fruits of the grace of faith, is that of Abel. By his faith he offered a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts. There was an essential defect in Cain's offering. It was not a sacrifice. It consisted of the fruits of the groundl; it pointed not to the great sacrifice to be made for sin by the Lamb of God; and therefore, instead of being a sign of his faith, it proved that he was destitute of this saving principle. Abel offered the firstlings of the flock, thus acknowledging himself to be a sinner, who could be saved only through the blood of atonement. And when he fell by the hand of his vindictive brother, his soul went to the embraces of that Saviour, whose blood, by the eye of faith, he saw typified in the crimson drops that stained his own altar.

The example of Abel is full of instruction : “ By it, he being dead, yet speaketh,” declaring that God may be worshipped ecceptably, through faith in Christ; that sin cannot be pardoned without an atonement; that Christ is the only propitiation for our sins ; that true faith and repentance are connected with righteousness of life; that such a life, although it may excite the rage and persecution of the enemies of God, whilst it will not be without a glorious reward in tha life to come, will be exerting a silent but mighty influence, after death has done its work on the body.

The influence of good men, in this world, after their death, is the important subject which the text naturally suggests, and to which your attention is invited. We

e are too prone to feel that our influence is to cease at death. True, that when we leave the world we shall cease to exert any more influence upon it in the ordinary mode, by

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which living men exert an influence upon one another. The voice that was eloquent in defence of the great principles of justice or freedom, or in defending the doctrines and enforcing the truths of the Gospel, is heard no more. The eye that beamed with affection and intelligence is closed in the socket. The hand that was skilful in works of art, or that was held out to stay the tottering steps of the feeble, or to point men the way to heaven, is wrapped in the shroud. But our influence may.outlast—the influence of some good men, and of some bad men, too, has outlasted—the marble which affection rears to commemorate their names. Our dust may be blown, and “no mound or stone tell whither,” but our influence cannot thus be lost. It can be sealed up in no sepulchre, nor blown away by any wind. .

We, my hearers, now feel the influence of those who lived before us, and whose bodies long since furnished their last meal to the hungry worm.

Men inherit not merely the possessions of the dead--the houses they built, the fields they cultivated—but to some extent their principles and their habits. We are not only on the same stage on which those who have gone before us acted their parts, but are reproducing the same characters, and acting over again the same parts. Only the dramatis personce have been changed. A century ago, there were here, as now, parents and children, teachers and scholars, magistrates and subjects, pastors and hearers. Could we take a whole view of the past, and compare it with society as it is at present, although we might descry many beneficial and some sad changes, we should doubtless appear but as the representatives or substitutes of the forefathers who slumber in the grave-yard. Death, the great harvester, will continue to put in the sickle ; others will soon stand, or sit, in the places we now fill. We shall die : but God grant that instead of the fathers may be the children ; and that there may never be wanting those who shall contend for the faith once delivered to the saints, and by holiness of life, shall witness a good profession. And when, at the voice of the archangel, the ancient covering of the grave

shall be broken, and parents shall meet their children and their children's children, and ministers and people shall stand confronted at the bar of Christ, God grant that it may then appear, to our common and everlasting joy, that we have not run in vain, neither labored in vain. As we feel the influence of those that have gone before us, and rejoice in it, to the same extent in which they were the faith. ful followers of Christ, so must they who come after us feel ours, and they will rise up and call us blessed, if the silent voice we leave behind us shall plead for virtue and for God.

How naturally, then, does it follow that we should live every day, not for the present alone, but for future generations. We owe them a debt-the same debt which past generations owed us. The past we are not to despise ; it

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may teach us much ; it speaks as with a thousand voices of warning and instruction, and every wise man will sit down patiently and docilely at the feet of the past. We must be pupils of the Past : we cannot teach it. But the Future we may instruct; the Future we may make our pupil ; to the Future we may be as a Gamaliel. And thus we may unite the two characters of being pupils to the past and instructors to the future. Our position as pupils is an important one. How much we may learn! and what poor proficiency we have made! The Past is looking towards us, as with reproving look for despising the lessons of wisdom which she invites us to learn. But upon this I will not now dwell, but will simply remind you that the same relation which we sustain to the past, the future will sustain to us. May we be as worthy of filling the office of teachers, as were many of those who have preceded us! Hence the duty of casting ourselves forward to live for that future, to live for posterity. It involves in. terests dear as our civil liberty, dear as the moral purity of society, dear as the cross of Jesus. The statesmen of one generation are the schoolmasters of those that come after. Å Sydney, a Hale, a Washington, lived not for their own generation alone. A Milton sang for us no less than for his

. own contemporaries. A Luther, a Knox, a Howe, a Baxter, fought our battles, and elaborated sermons for our edificacation. Live, then, O live for posterity.

In doing this it is not necessary to live exclusively for the future, or to lose sight of the present interests of the world. We can serve future generations with no better effect, than by serving our own well. Let our plans be for immediate, and then they will be for prospective, usefulness. We are not to "stop to dry up the fluids of present vitality that we may embalm ourselves as mummies for posterity. Yet, as has been said, we should strive chiefly to act in the present, and to draw our bow with such tension that it may reach within the veil of the great hereafter. Would you know how you may best serve the future, it is by serving well your own generation. Thus the present and the future seem to have in us a common stock. As far as the great moral of our life is concerned, there is to them a partnership. We are not, then, by pleading with men to live for posterity, diverting them from the duty they owe the present. No men served their own generation to better effect than Baxter, and Flavel, and Edwards, and do we not feel their influence? And who will presume to fix its boundaries? Like a refreshing and health-giving wave, it will roll on, blessing the future as it has blessed us.

Who will undertake to estimate fully the posthumous influence of such men as Doddridge, Romaine, and Baxter ? How many saints have been comforted and animated in duty by the Treatise on the Saint's Everlasting Rest! How many careless persons have been awakened to a sense of their peril.

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ous condition, by the same writer's “ Call to the Unconverted !" What multitudes have perused the "Rise and Progress," and have been led to a seuse of their ruined condition, and to a saving knowledge of Christ! Just look at the influence of that little tract, “The Dairyman's Daughter," by Leigh Richmond. It has been translated into a great variety of languages, and to how many has it been blessed as the means of their conversion to Christ! Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress we read in childhood, and when we become older it loses none of its attractions. These works have perhaps been blessed to the eternal good of more than their authors were permitted to be the means of benefitting by the living voice. Like the bones of the prophet, of which we read in sacred story, which imparted life to a dead body thrown into his sepulchre, these works have been the means of raising multitudes to spiritual life. These are the best relics of the good—relics which we may well reverence, and without superstition, may carry near our hearts. Aprons and handkerchiefs carried from Paul, and the shadow of Peter, which fell upon the sick, were blessed to their healing ; and the published writings of men eminent for gifts and piety, God has been pleased to honor, to the spiritual healing of a multitude of souls. By these precious volumes, they in a figure still live, and act upon the minds of their fellow-men. Being dead, they yet speak; their actions "smell sweet and blossom in their dust."

Secondly, I would urge this duty further, from the consideration that it is impossible so to live that we shall exert no influence after death. That is, if our influence be not good, it must be evil. It cannot possess a merely negative character. It is impossible that a moral agent should occupy a position so isolated or neutral as to exert no influence upon others. He may be unconscious of it, but it is going forth by every channel, upon the right hand and the left, at morning, noon, and night. When we go out, when we come in, when we rise up, and when we sit down. It is felt by all who are brought into social contact with us, for good, or for evil.

The infidel sentiments which were disseminated by Vol. taire, that great luminary of modern infidelity, in his voluminous productions of Philosophy, History, Poetry, and Fiction, were instrumental in poisoning not only the minds of the men of his own country and generation, but their disastrous influence survived, and still survives him. Like the pestilent stench of a body which perished from the plague, it has infected, and to this day continues to infect, the living. France fixed not its boundaries ; but it burdened every wind that swept over the countries of Europe. Even the broad Atlantic was not too mighty a barrier for it to overleap. It made both Americas tremble. Nor did it stop at the limits Christendom. Missionaries sent to instruct the hertha

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bring them to the knowledge of Christianity, have found his infidel productions translated, and put into the hands of idolators, especially to counteract their efforts. Such has been the influence for evil of one man, living and dead. I have selected, it is true, a notable example, but the same principles. hold true in respect to others of less abilities and attainments, and who exert a less commanding, but no less decided influence, in their respective spheres. The obscure man, who never enjoyed the advantages of mental cultivation, and of whose outgoings and incomings 110 chronicler takes note, has his own little world ; it may be his own neighborhood merely, or his own family ; but there the unrecorded conversation, and acts, and deportmeut, of which history will indite not a line, are leaving impressions, perhaps of evil

, too, as lndelible as the mind of man can receive. The influence of the * village Hampden," or "some mute, inglorious Milton," may be felt a century after men have ceased to visit their graves. We are all capable of affecting other minds, and every day, and every hour of the day, however unmindful of the fact, are thus employed. If, then, to exert some kind of influence is the law of our condition, how important is the duty to render it salutary! I seen to be walking on a hair," said one

: as eminent for piety as he was for ministerial gifts," and hardly dare go down to breakfast or dinner lest I should do something which may hurt the cause of religion." And who will say that he had too nice a sense of the importance which may attach to the most trivial aaffirs in which we may be engaged? Look at a parent, surrounded with his family. Every word, every look even, is fraught with important consequences. The young immortals who look to him with filial reverence, to whom every word he utters is law, whose characters are in a moulding state, receive his impress just as the melted wax receives the impress of the incumbent seal. It is the influence which fathers and mothers exert over their offspring which is the most enduring and important in its character. Authority and affection combine to give it strength. and to render it almost omnipotent. But there is no relation in life, of which it is not true that a powerful influence goes forth reciprocally from the parties between whom it subsists. Brothers, sisters, friends, companions, are at once the objects and the sources of an influence which is certainly felt, and which is productive of the most important effects for good or evil on their respective habits, sentiments, and characters.

But it is unnecessary to illustrate this point further. The fact is so obvious as to be beyond dispute, that influencemoral influence-is one of the inseparable conditions of our earthly being. The man cannot be found who is so obscure, or so ignorant, or even so degraded by vice, as not to have some measure of influence. The example of the poor drivelling sot, however he may excite our disgust or our pity, is not

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