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which distract the minds of some, or for the expedients which, for the silencing of those fears, others have recourse to, in order to keep away the apprehension from the minds of their dying friends. No; it is the painful conviction, that in the crisis in question, there will be need of consolations, which it is the least fit season to begin to have recourse to. . If we were to pursue the sentiment, it would appear, that the duty of remembering our latter end, so as to give it a controlling influence over our conduct, is as conspicuous as any duty which we infer from our condition; or as any truth, which we found on our observation of nature. Why else do we, by an involuntary impulse, anticipate that last crisis? Why do we look beyond it for something still to come? Has God, who made nothing else in vain, unnecessarily ordained that man, when no alarm is heard, and when no danger threatens, shall have a monitor occasionally reminding him that he is to die? It is for the purpose of humbling his pride ; of making him moderate in his enjoyments; of calling his attention to the Author and the Preserver of his being; of awakening his sensibilities to the rights and to the sorrows of his fellow-men; and finally, of transferring his hopes and of drawing his affections to that better life, in which “death will be swallowed up in victory.”
In the opening and the illustrating of a single sentiment, there has been pointed out the application of the consolation of the text, to the remedy of the evil there also contemplated. The doing of this at the entrance on a new year, has been with the view of exhorting the hearers to govern their conduct on such a plan as shall be fruitful of the reflections which they cannot but wish to adorn the close of it; or sustain them under any events which may arrest them during its course.
Who can foretel in what way the next year will end ; or what extraordinary calamities of war, of pestilence, and the like, may mark its progress? This is not said to imbitter life by an anticipation of its possible ills, but to suggest the sentiment, that the circumstance of our being aware of them must have been designed for some useful purpose. Can it be believed, that a
benevolent Being has subjected his creatures to a knowledge of the many dangers which surround them, without having provided for them the armor of a correspondent preparation of mind ? No, thou great Creator and Preserver of men! Let them but habitually discern thy Almighty arm, as well in thy mercies as in thy judgments; and then no dangers shall drive them from their duties; no sorrows shall make them cast away their confidence in thee; and, even in the vale of death, they shall feel thy staff, sustaining and guiding them through its darkness.
Without having recourse to ills which may be thought barely possible, it is enough, that in the ordinary calamities of life, and in every portion of time, we behold death waving high bis standard. It is enough, that in such an assembly as the present it cannot be supposed, that to all of us there remains another year of our probation. How awful is the thought, that of those whom death is marking as bis victims, some may be unprepared for his stroke! It is with the hope of awakening them from such a state, that there has been now a train of reflections, which, if applied, will elevate them above the fear of the king of terrors, and guard them against its unhappy consequences.
Brethren; in a survey of this assembly, it might be uncharitable to contemplate any portion of them as looking forward to another year with intentional indulgence in any kind of conduct, for which they are already liable to the just judgments of a holy God. But it is not uncharitable, and it is conformable to experience to believe, that there are many anticipating another year, and perhaps an indefinite number of other years, without the thought of the casualties which may interfere to disappoint their expectations. This is a state of mind which gives ground for the apprehension of the want of preparation for an unexpected change. It would be a happy effect of the considerations which have been offered, that to the heart of any individual present, there should be brought a truth which must be known to be as evident as any that can come before our understandings; there being, within and around us, causes of dissolution which may be brought into action by the slightest occurrences; so as to break in an instant the silken ties of this mortal life.
If there should be the excitement of such a sensibility, the proper improvement of it is to the repentance which is "unto salvation;" to recourse to the mercy of God for pardon, through the merits of the adorable Redeemer; and to the “renewal after the image of Him who created us ;” which is the only possible preparation for the enjoyment of his presence hereafter; and for the being, even here, delivered from a fearful apprehension, which cannot otherwise but sometimes intrude, of that "end of all men,” which “the living should lay to heart.”
With the view of impressing this, there shall be a repetition of the principal sentiment of the discourse — that now is especially the time to begin to cultivate a sense of the continual presence of God, in the mercies of his providence and in the influences of his grace: which, having been a living principle of conduct, will, in all the possible exigencies of life, and in the sure event of death, cause us to feel ourselves still under the rod of our spiritual Shepherd; and, after conducting us through the dark vale which we have been contemplating, will seat us in that better country, where there is “no need of the light of the sun nor of that of the moon to shine in it, but the LORD God doth lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof."
Brethren ; at this beginning of a new year, it may be profitable to look back on the occurrences of the old, so as to profit by any extraordinary event of it, which may be made to have a propitious influence on the annual point of time at which we have again arrived. It is still in our memories, and still interesting to our feelings, that an epidemical disorder, after having been reported to us from the climates of the East, and afterward from countries to which we are more allied by customs and by commerce, was at last permitted to invade our shores. Owing to the novelty of the disease, we were not prepared for it by medical experience; and although the well earned reputation of our physicians was sustained, by a speedy adaptation of their skill to the existing evil, yet it was not without much injury to the pursuits of industry, nor without its carrying off a considerable proportion of our population, with very short warnings, to their graves.
The use to be made of the retrospect, is its adding to the weight of the instructions, issuing ordinarily from the knowledge of the uncertainty of human life, by showing how much this is increased by some extraordinary visitation which a righteous Providence may inflict, being a stronger emphasis to the admonition that “Now is the accepted time, that now is the day of salvation ;” and to the excitement applicable alike to the concerns of eternity and of time -“WHATSOEVER THOU HAST TO DO, DO IT WITH THY MIGHT, FOR THERE IS NO WORK OR DEVICE IN THE GRAVE, WHITHER THOU GOEST.”
BY THE RIGHT REV. HENRY USTICK ONDERDONK, D. D.
1 Cor. xiii. 18—" The greatest of these is Charity."
GREATER than faith, greater than hope, how transcendent is the virtue of charity! Chief of graces, it is the best of the good and perfect gifts which come down from the Father of lights.
But how shall we recognise this exalted Christian attainment; how shall we test it? Charity is one of the commonest terms in language; and, as commonly employed, expresses some of the most frequent actions of life. Particularly in this benevolent age, scarcely an individual can be said to be without charity in one of its current senses; and if that sense be sufficient, there must be almost none who possess not a higher quality than either faith or hope.
From such a conclusion, so over-flattering to fallen men, every mind in the least conversant with religious truth instinctively recoils. Valuable as are kindnesses to the poor, to those in any species of want, or sorrow, or ignorance, they are not to be made a substitute for the high graces of the soul; they are not to cast into the shade the exalted principles of faith and hope. To surpass principles so high and so boly, will require a grace more ennobling and more sanctifying. For this greatest of Christian virtues, therefore, we must look much farther and much deeper than to ordinary acts of benevolence, or to any partial traits of excellence. To this inquiry let us now devote our thoughts. No subject can be more in unison with the eucharistic solemnity. With charity for our theme, and true charity in our hearts, we cannot be unprepared for the feast which celebrates mercy from heaven and good-will among men. May the Spirit of God sanctify our meditations, and make us perfect in holy love!
In opening our subject, we are first naturally led to the remark, founded on the use of the word “charity” in different senses, that it is the misfortune of language to be continually varying. Words which once had a definite signification, come to be employed with looseness, and at length change materially their sense.
This were of small moment if the things before signified received new appellations, and correct ideas of them were thus preserved. But too often with the misapplied word, the subject itself passes into a mistaken apprehension. These changes have been exemplified in the word “charity.” We now appropriate that word, sometimes to mere alms-giving, sometimes to that gentle and unsuspecting candor which prompts a kind construction of the conduct of others, and sometimes even to that passiveness which concedes largely to error itself. In opposition to these several mistakes, we remark that the Apostle declares that “all our goods may be bestowed to feed the poor” while we yet are destitute of “charity;" that, though candid and kind feeling is one particular of charity, it cannot be that entire virtue which is the greatest of the ornaments of grace; and that scriptural charity is never passive concerning opinions, since it "rejoiceth not in iniquity,” but only and exclusively “in the truth.” It is evident, therefore, that when the present translation of the Bible was made, the word “charity" had a nobler signification than it usually has in our day.