Page images
PDF
EPUB

deur, - not vague theories, not sunny visions, but the realities of heaven and eternity. “My mind, (said one, whose earthly existence was fast drawing to a close,) my mind is crowded with thoughts, — precious thoughts of death and immortality.” Is not then sickness indeed a benefit to us, if it thus draw away our thoughts and affections from the fading and transitory of earth, and lift them up to things above? Truly, as well as poetically, has it been written :

" Thou art like night, O sickness ! deeply stilling

Within my heart the world's disturbing sound, And the dim quiet of my chamber filling,

With low, sweet voices, by life's tumult drown'd.

Thou art like awful night! thou gatherest round The things that are unseen, tho' close they lie

And with a truth, clear, startling and profound, Giv'st their dread presence to our mental eye.

" Thou art like starry, spiritual night!

High and immortal thoughts attend thy way, And revelations, which the common light

Brings not, though wakening with its rosy ray All outward life. Be welcome, then, thy rod, Before whose touch my soul unfolds itself to God!"*

* Mre. Hemans.

Nor is this all. There is, almost as a necessary result of this change in our views and prospects, an awakening of conscience, a deep spiritual thoughtfulness on practical duties, and a most sanctifying and elevating influence on our whole character. Seeing that the material universe will be dissolved, we are struck with the immense importance of the question, What manner of men ought we to be? A searching retrospect is made of our past lives; all adventitious circumstances being removed, every thing is judged by the unfailing standards of truth and goodness: then falls the silent tear of penitence, and the one object which henceforth appears worth living for, is to become like Christ, fit for the divine presence and the abodes of the blessed.* Ought we not, then,

*"If, (observes Pope in a letter to Sir Richard Steele,) what Waller says be true, that • The soul's dark cottage, battered and decayed,

Lets in new light through chinks that Time has made ;' then surely sickness, contributing no less than old age to the shaking down this scaffolding of the body, may discover the inward structure more plainly. Sickness is a sort of early old

to be in a great measure reconciled to an appointment, wherein we can trace so manifest a tendency to build us up to the full stature of the perfect man?

In thus describing the fruits of sickness, we are earnestly desirous others should feel as we do, that we are not dealing in mere gratifying speculations; what we have stated is confirmed by great and good men without number, of all nations and ages. Go we back to antiquity, we have a testimony from an observing heathen, -"I had lately (he remarks) an opportunity of seeing, in my attendance on a friend in a languishing

age ; it teaches us a diffidence in our earthly state, and inspires us with the thoughts of a future, better than a thousand volumes of philosophers and divines. It gives so warning a concussion to those props of our vanily, our strength and youth, that we think of fortifying ourselves within, when there is so little dependence upon our outworks."

" Sickness is one of God's kindest messengers, to put us in mind of our folly, and incogitance, and excess, in health: and how discomposed and disconsolale soever it renders our thoughts, it awakens those that have long slept, and presents many things to our clearest view, which we had laid aside, never to be thought of more." – Clarendon.

state, how much better we all are for sickness: for avarice and vice then lose their hold upon us; we are no more slaves to our irregular passions; the honors of the world are no allurement to us; its wealth we slight, finding that, be our pittance ever so small, it will serve us to our journey's end. At such seasons, we think of God, and remember that we ourselves are mortal; we neither envy nor despise others, nor take a malignant pleasure in hearing their faults exposed.” And now let Christians bear witness. One, who was at the same time one of our greatest philosophers, and most learned and pious followers of Christ, in reviewing his pilgrimage, as he approached the vale of years, declares, “I even think it an advantage to me, and am truly thankful for it, that my health received the check that it did, when I was young; since a muscular habit, from high health and strong spirits, is not, I think, in general, accompanied with that sensibility of mind, which is favorable both to piety and to speculative pursuits.” And an eminent American di

vine, not long since gathered to his fathers, speaks thus in a letter to a young friend : “There was a time, when we thought it was commanded you speedily to join the company of those who have entered on their reward. Thacher is gone, and others stand feebly in their places, so that we are doubly grateful for every one who is threatened and yet spared. I dare say that you have felt as much thankfulness on account of the sickness itself, as on account of its removal, because you must have found it a most salutary discipline.” And do you not remember the emphatic and solemnly impressive manner, in which, as if a new light had just burst in upon him, the late Dr. Arnold, a few hours before he closed his eyes, never to re-open them, bade his son “thank God for pain ?” We might enumerate, almost to any extent, instances of a similar kind; we might refer to Cowper, to whose mental and bodily sufferings we are, partly at least, indebted for his poetry; to Lardner, from whom, in all probability, we should never have had, had it not been for his deafness,

« PreviousContinue »