« PoprzedniaDalej »
disposition; especially, when directed by the love of God it falls on those whom he loves especially in Christ, the Christian brotherhood before mentioned. For that is love of a superior kind, sainted love, a portion of the divine. "And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us, (says St. John.) God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as he is so are we in this world." (John I. iv. 16, 17.) He is the merciful, good Being; and we are his children: give me those who know what it is to love him and his; and I will shew them what a treasure they have, so that they shall not choose to part with it for all the pleasures and all the opposition in the world.
It may be thought by some, that they should like to live quiet too. But then it must be without opposition: And let us have our own way in every thing, if you please. For who ever loved another, or possibly could as long as he was opposing him?--I will tell you; he who loved most, and experienced the greatest opposition; he who died spontaneously upon the cross for his enemies, and conquered opposition by suffering. He did not wait till the opposition of his enemies was over: but loved them. in the midst of it, and died for them, even for his enemies, when their opposition was at the highest. But, to settle this point at once; consider what may be the grand opposition of all, that in which all other oppositions are comprehended: is it not that between good and evil? And who is the party here opposed; but the Author of good? who are his opponents, but ungrateful creatures who owe every thing, not excepting their lives, to his unmerited favour? And what would become of them should his favour be suspended until THEIR opposition was at an end? Why their souls must be utterly consumed in malice, and consigned with their bodies to utter perdition. They could never return of themselves,-begin with loving him, and
make the first overture toward a reconciliation. "We love him, because he first loved us.-And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God, love his brother also." (John I. iv. 19. 21.)
We ought not therefore to wait the issue of any opposition for honouring and loving all men whether distant or near but to subdue, if possible, asperity by civility; and opposition by kindness. For love makes all things equal; and a charitable estimation of mankind is next to the knowledge and enjoyment of God.
THE PROSPECT OF DEATH.
"The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law: but thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."
COR. I. xv. 56, 57.
WHENEVER we happen to foresee or anticipate some accident in our way, if it should interest us, the character and intensity of our anticipation or prospect will necessarily correspond with the character of such accident as it appears to us, and the degree in which we are interested so that we shall not be long at a loss where or on which side, nor in what degree to consider the same; whether on the right hand among good accidents, or on the left among evil,—in front among the principal of either sort, or behind among the inferior. And in this our distribution of accidents, there cannot be much doubt or hesitation as to the general character of one that we are now to consider; God himself having placed the same in an evil light, and eminently so, by making it the punishment of a capital delinquency. "Of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat: (said
he, for in the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die." (Gen. ii. 17.)
But while THE PROSPECT OF DEATH is therefore to be regarded with feelings of horror and aversion, as a token of divine wrath befalling equally to all mankind, there still are other considerations blended with such feelings; whereby they are greatly modified, as well as by inconsideration or the want of them, which will appear itself to be a part of the evil. The colouring of the Prospect must also depend in some measure on times and seasons, as well as on the habits and temperaments of observers : so that the same person shall regard the Subject one while as a bitter draught added to "the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil,"-another while as a solace or antidote for some of its bitter productions; but most frequently, or as we may say, invariably, in the first mentioned adverse light; since no one even in our sophisticated species ever desires death purely for its own sake, but as a painful sacrifice, either to obtain some foreign good, or to escape, as he may think, some greater evil.
The liability to dissolution, or, what is more, the actual progress of this dreaded change by every sort of tearing and rending asunder with pains indescribable, and such a fermentation, both mental and corporeal, as may be guessed by the bitter samples afforded daily, though never to be comprehended fully in this present state, may yet be comprehended sufficiently for a knowledge of the sad inheritance that men derive by one act from the first of their kind, and all other kinds upon earth appear to shun instinctively as the greatest evil in their way. "We know in part, and we prophesy in part;" and from the part that is known any one might be led to exclaim with the author of my text, "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" (Rom. vii. 24.)
And he was one, apparently, that would not soon cry out, a warrior well experienced in every sort of civil combat but litigation perhaps, every other sort—whether
external or internal, corporeal or spiritual; had struggled hard with wealth in a certain degree, and harder still perhaps with poverty-knowing "both how to be abased, and how to abound:" (Phil. iv. 12:) who had also endured a more serious conflict with his own unruly temper, warring with the law of his mind-often troubling, and near enslaving him sometimes by its unworthy influence. And, in short, from different causes, or between one peril and another-" perils of waters, perils of robbers, perils by countrymen, perils by the heathen, perils in the city, perils in the wilderness, perils in the sea, perils among false brethren," (Cor. II. xi. 26,) as well as among his own false emotions,—this excellent apostle (blessed be God for having given us such a brother!) was one that "had been standing in jeopardy every hour." (Cor. I. xv. 30.) He had had to struggle with disadvantages collectively, such as other men are for the most part only tried with singly: “in deaths oft," (Cor. II. xi. 23,) or "dying daily;" (Cor. I. xv. 31;) as he says. But what would seem most extraordinary, and quite out of the way for an apostle, he had even been compelled to enter the arena with wild beasts in his time—" If after the manner of men I have fought with wild beasts at Ephesus," (Ib. 32,) says he.
Having, therefore, been so continually exercised in this way, namely of struggling and combating not only with evil men and his own evil humours, but also with wild beasts, as aforesaid, after that he had left off hunting and worrying others—himself like a wild beast, (Acts xxii. 4,) -it was not unnatural for such a one to regard the approach of" the last enemy," (Cor. I. xv. 26,) as he calls him, in the light of A REGULAR ASSAULT. And he is not the only example in the Kingdom of such a feeling towards that universal tyrant, or of the same accompanied not only with prayers and supplications, but "with strong crying and tears unto Him that was able to save him from death." (Heb. v. 7.) Wherefore, we being at least equally exposed to the assaults of the enemy with St.
Paul, and partaking with him generally in the apprehension now expressed, cannot follow a better precedent for particularly viewing the same than he affords, and especially in the words of our text; considering,
1, The Nature and Quality of the dreaded enemy or accident;
2, His Force or Weapon, with its strength or efficiency;
3, The Prospect of the event;
Proper Defence to set up against it.
1. "The body of this death," as the apostle styles it, is no bad idea for the form of the evil, or its Nature and Quality: the same not being a simple calamity or affliction, but one compounded of various joints or successions; the first of them obvious enough, as what most men have witnessed, and all of us are sure to experience, according to the wise woman of Tekoah's observation. “For we
must needs die, (said she) and are as water spilt on the ground; which cannot be gathered up again: neither doth God respect any person." (Sam. II. xiv. 14.) But with regard to the SECOND DEATH, which we read of; however distinct its recognition may be in Scripture, where we read of it; (Rev. ii. 11;) and also with regard to future deaths, successive exhibitions of the shocking disease of mortality-each, perhaps, many times worse than its predecessor; they are calamities far beyond our present comprehension: and only in the evil particulars of the present death we find room enough to feel the severity of the divine infliction; as in
1. An intellectual Death: which may be called the First, as it is the beginning of sorrows; that which involves the two other species or particulars of a spiritual and a corporeal death. For this intellectual death is found or felt in many painful circumstances; as for one, even in a dimness or insensibility to the just apprehension of death, as well as of its heavenly Dispenser, and his other awful judgments; a case that was enough to confound so