Obrazy na stronie

standing upon the stormy billows, when our hearts are ready to fail us, we“ stretch lame hands of faith," and grasp the strong Hand which will be stretched out to us, we shall be held up. His strong Hand, not our weakness; His grasp, not ours; Christ, not my faith in Christ, will keep me from falling and present me faultless before the Presence of His glory.

ALEXANDER Maclaren, D.D.

It con

All Souls.

EZEKIEL xviii. 4. Behold, all souls are Mine." The Christian Church has celebrated for more than a thousand years an annual festival in honour of all its saints. Its martyrs had ceased with the persecutions that called for their blood. Its canonized great were becoming too numerous to receive each his particular commemoration. It therefore set apart a day in which all the faithful who had departed should be remembered together. It thus extended to a large number of persons a memorial that was at first confined to its distinguished champions, its confessors, and historic names.

There was something beautiful—may we not say generous ?-in such an observance. It was held on the first day of every November; a day when the heathen nations of that part of the world celebrated the vintage, but which Christian piety converted to a very different purpose, consecrating it to the thought of those accepted spirits that had been plucked or had dropped away from the tree of this life, to be treasured up in the vessels of life eternal.

It was called All-Saints day. The second day of the same month brings round another anniversary, made great account of in some countries. scarcely indeed be called another anniversary. It is rather the same con

tinued, and expanded into a still wider signification. It is called All-Souls. It thus embraces the whole congregation of those who have been severed from this world's joy, and rest from its labours. It recognizes no distinction of rank, or belief, or fortune, in those who dwell no longer in the flesh, but have passed to their account. siders only the sympathies of a common nature and the fellowship of death. All the martyrs were not many compared with the rest of the Church. All the saints could be but few in the midst of those who gave little witness to the truth, and failed to adorn the profession they gave.

But the expression “All-Souls ” takes in the most undistinguished, the simplest, the frail: est. It is as large as humanity. It allows us either to contemplate the general relations, that connect us with our brethren of the same race and with futurity; or to follow with our affections those who have gone before us into the unseen state. It is in the latter application that the name is used, wherever the observance is kept. This is called the day of the dead. We may turn this anniversary to an animating and useful purpose. Its name invites us to the contemplation of a wider subject than that of our personal losses.

It suggests something better than the revival of former sorrows, however affectionate or sacred. It does not lead us in the train of any sad procession, but rather lifts up the heart to worship the universal Father of spirits. Not that it forbids us to call up before our thoughts the cherished images that are all that are left us of those we loved. On the contrary, it insists upon this as a part of what it contains ; for who shall appear first in the company of disembodied natures but those whom we prized while the pulse of this life was in them? But at the same time 't

It can

sends us out on a wider range. It the changes of seasons and circumtakes our whole humanity within its stances to Him who abides for ever? scope.

The babe just born into the world, With this view of it, the words of the which the stricken in years is leaving text are better suited to the occasion behind him, enters under the decrees, than those of gloomier colour would that do not change, of His goodness be. And indeed we might search the and equity. They are both passing Scriptures through, and find no others into untried spheres of the same adapted so well to be the guide of our sovereign dominion, — different manreflections. “ Behold, all souls are sions, but one Father's house. There mine, saith the Lord God.” They are is a glorious universality in the apHis, whether confined in the flesh or pointments of Heaven, in the midst delivered from its burden; for whether of the endless varieties of the earth's the one or the other, “ all live unto tribes and tongues, talents and instituHim.” So His Son has declared, who tions and fortunes. They hold on “ to this end both died and rose, that their equalizing course. They exerHe might be Lord both of the dead and cise their impartial authority. They living.” They are His, with whatever apportion their moral awards of mercy degrees of capacity He has endowed and judgment before the tribunal of them, small and great, weak and conscience and among the destinies of strong. They are His, to whatever life. In the language of the apostle, trials of condition He has appointed applied to another subject, " There are them, the happy and afflicted. They diversities of gifts, but the same spirit; are His, in whatever degree they have and differences of administrations, acknowledged, or refused to acknow- but the same Lord; and diversities of ledge, that Divine ownership. They operations, but it is the same God are His to govern, His to keep, His which worketh all in all.” to recompense. They are His, for He The creation has its undivided gave them their being; and without Father. Wherever and whatever we the strength that He imparts they are, He is about us. A single Head, have no sufficiency, and without the a single Giver, is the Dispenser of rule spirit that He continues they would and the Fountain of supply. We sit return into nothing. Ye say, cries down at the table of a common muthe prophet at this place, that the nificence. The circles of nature enfathers have transgressed and the compass its children with a similar children suffer. What mean ye that carefulness; like the arch of the skies, ye use that saying? As I live, saith which rounds uniformly above us, the Lord, there shall be no more room with its mysteries and revelations, its for such a proverb in Israel. The soul succesive blessings and its radiant of the parent, the soul of the child, signs of instruction. And when we they are Mine alike.

look beyond outward nature and maHow can we conceive of its being terial comforts, we perceive that the otherwise ? Down through all the wisdom which is profitable to direct, generations of time His attributes are and the satisfactions of our better nathe same, His careful providence is the turre, all come from on high. The inHis mercies are

over His spiration of the Almighty giveth unworks at every moment as at the be- derstanding. The grace of the Alginning. He is the righteous judge mighty alone brings peace. in one place as in another. What are Turn to the most wondrous exhibi



“ Be



tion of this grace that has been made ments. There is nothing to narrow, within the range of historic time, the the heart in our meditations of either Gospel of the Redeemer, and behold but everything rather to swell it full how universal it is. How perfectly with love and confidence. unlimited so far as any thing belong- It is not true, that the empire of the ing to itself is concerned ! How large Omnipotent is divided, and a portion of in its spirit, how free in its tendencies, its moral subjects cut off from its how boundless in its purposes, its offers regards; whether by the power of unstinted, its promises everlasting! It an adversary or the change of death. means to bless wherever there is a He has not given away His possession, human being, and to subdue all things or any part of it, to another. to itself. And it is going on to do it. hold, all souls are Mine, saith the When it was first announced, it was as Lord.” And it is not true, that the glad tidings of great joy that be to all Gospel sets itself forth for only a parpeople. It was to be nothing less tial redemption ; that for a few elect than salvation to the ends of the earth. ones only its wonders were wrought, It was for every one to see,—that light and its angels appeared, and its Spirit of the Gentiles. The poorest were to was poured out, and its testimony have it preached unto them. For spread everywhere abroad. It was to whom did its Christ die, if it were not

reconcile the world to God that its for a whole world lying in sin ? He great Witness suffered and “ laid down his life,” not on behalf of While on earth He chose the despised this person or of that, but as a ran- for His companions; He called the som for THE MANY." God so loved sinful to His offered grace. The faith MANKIND that He sent Him; and, so that He bequeathed when He ascended commisioned, He set no limit to His shows a like condescension, carries on errand of love. It included whoever the same benignant design. It deals would come within its covenant. His kindly with the afflicted, the humble,– religion set at naught exclusive privi- with those who are most in need of such leges. It aimed to break up the treatment, and those who are least haughty distinctions between race and accustomed to it. It repels none. It race, and the exclusive feelings that despairs of none. It opens one faith, estranged one person from another, one hope. and to establish neighbourhood and And it is none the less general in its brotherhood over the globe. It made gift for being so imperfectly accepted. the hills stoop, that the valleys might As it did at the first, it does now; acbe exalted. It preached down the commodating itself to every condition pride of the great, and showed the of humanity, and making no account compassion of God for the least of of much that the popular judgment rates his creatures, his children. Its “ free the highest; they who subdue themgift," as the Apostle to the nations de- selves being its heroes, and they who clared, " abounded unto the many,”

best serve others being its kings, came upon all men.”

Whether we wherever they are found. It brings consider, therefore, our relation to together also into a community those Him who creates and possesses what

who remain on earth and those who ever exists, or to Him who is the have left it. It instructs the living in its Mediator of the Christian covenant,

truth, that knows no distinction among we perceive that each of them spreads them, and it gathers the dead under out into the most merciful enlarge- the protection of its unfailing promises


but "

If, therefore, we would commemorate with our thoughts, though with no outward ceremonial, this day of AllSouls, what has been said may serve to give these thoughts their proper direction.

Let us first remember the souls of such as were once in our company,

were not suffered to continue by reason of death"; or such as we never personally knew, but who have yet always had a life in our revering minds. We may salute them anew in their far off state, and be the better for doing so.

We do not know what that state really is, and need not know. We may trust them to the care of Him who has said, “ All souls are Mine.” We join in no processions to their burial places. Though if we did, in these rich and beautiful days, with their mild air, their blue sky, their sleepy but brilliant clouds, and the sear leaves that still hang faintly in their places, it would not be strange if the south-western wind should almost seem to breathe the names of one's friends as he looked upon their tombs. But we do not follow them thither, and we cannot behold them anywhere, It will be enough to trace them back through what they have been, as we often may with tender affections or with a solemn gratitude; and to accompany them forward, with hope, though not with understanding, towards what they shall be, and the rest whereinto they have already entered. Let us repent ourselves afresh of any neglect or injustice that we may have committed in regard to them. Let us revive in our hearts the sense of all that endeared them to

Let us prove more ready and less fearful for the end, as we treasure up the admonitions which their loss occasioned. Let us find that dim future not so void as it was, since they have gone before to inhabit it.

After we have performed this duty, another that is more important remains. It is as amiable as that, and has a broader practical reach than that. Let us remember the souls of those who are walking with us a similar course of probation and mortality. surrounded like ourselves with difficulties, exposures, infirmities, fears, and sorrows ; equally, perhaps, though differently be set. We salute the distant and the near, the ignorant and the instructed, the friendly to us and the adverse to us, and the stranger that cannot be either. We salute the obscure, of whom no one makes mention; and the oppressed, upon whom no takes pity. We salute the foreigner, who cannot understand the language in which we say it, and the darkest heathen, who has never heard of the religion that calls us to say it. We salute in every place the righteous whom we should imitate, and the guilty whom we would convert; those whom we can help, and those whom we must commiserate,- for we can do


no more.

It is All-Souls day. Let us call to view our common frailties, our mutual obligations. Let us forgive it we have aught against any. Let us devote ourselves anew to the whole service of good-will. Let us resolve for the time to come to be considerate of all, the present and the absent ; to be just to all ; to be kindly affectioned to all. These will be better offices than making pilgrimages to graves and adorning sepulchres. By these we shall be preparing to unite ourselves to the true “communion of saints” in the Kingdom of the Father. "The Church on earth and all the dead

But one communion make." In Him whom we call Lord, and Who is our Saviour," the whole family in heaven and earth is named.”



may to

Paul says:


How God may be known. be wholly right. I have felt the need I. John ii. 3.

of some help on this subject my own

self. I have felt the waves of doubt But we know that when He shall

and difficulty. I have not received a appear we shall be like Him, for we

perfect illumination, but only mere shall see Him as He is."

restfulness, mere hopefulness, and a The disciple, whose head had lain dim, yet imperfectly seen ground of in the bosom of Jesus, whose name is

of trust. I shall try as best a synonym of love, whose glorious

meet the difficulties in any mind that history, as it were, educed the very lie along the same region where I have interior life of Christ as none other

suffered. did, speaks as if he did not see God as Paul and John, and I might say the He was.

And he did not. Is there whole brotherhood of revelators, proany other apostle that is His equal ? phets, and teachers, instruct us that None, unless it be Paul, whose rapture

our knowledge of God is to be gained, at the touch of the thought of Christ first, not from the senses—we cannot overflowed into an ecstacy.


see Him, touch Him, or have any such “ Now we see as through a cognition of God as a man gets of glass darkly, then face to face. Now

matter, simply because God is not I know in part; then shall I know

He is something so high even as also I am known.” The same

above it that the tests which we bring thought with a different inflection, as

to bear upon matter do not touch the if he had said : “ All my knowledge of nature of God. Not from the intellect God is yet in shadow. It is, as related pure and simple, as developed into to reality, what my childish notions

ideas, arguments, proofs, what is were to the reality of manhood life.

called philosophical intellect. We The time is coming when I shall go cannot define God nor put Him into out of this, when I shall see God, and

any category, nor put before Him nor shall know Him just as now He knows behind Him any such forms of lanme.” And the inference is irresistible.

guage or interpretation as will reveal At present he walks darkly. He looks

Him intellectually. A God to us, to forward to the time of a perfect know- show us that God thinks, forethinks, ledge. I am going to try—it will be plans, executes, merely teaches us very imperfectly from the nature of the

some things as to God in action, subject - itself—if I can, to alleviate

but nothing as to God in His own some of the difficulties that hover about

nature. As to what He is, our knowmany minds upon the subject of God. ledge is gained, we are taught pri

There have always been men who marily from our moral disposition. are troubled on the subject of the evi- Afterward imagination and intellect dences of the existence of God. I am come in to give some form of shape not going to touch that subject at all. and some use to the inspiration of emoIt is a separate department of investi- tion. We know God through the invi. gation. But, admitting the existence sible and subtle force of the heart. of God, there has been a mystery Now, in regard to all our other thrown around the knowledge of Him, knowledges, they spring from that we a difficulty that has not been poisoned popularly call the head, that is the by infidelity, but that lingers as a intellect. Theologians have thought trouble in the minds of men that want out God, and what a miserable mess to believe aright, and to live aright, and they have made of it. The creeds and

« PoprzedniaDalej »