Page images

has no apprehension of? And even then one must be a fool to brave what follows without the armour of righteous. ness, or of confidence in a good cause: in the cause of modesty; of freedom, truth and charity. In these, it may be wise, to brave the worst; but ten thousand times oftener the worst is braved in defiance of these: and hence come wars and fightings, murders, massacres, uncleanness, violence and theft, perjury and infidelity, namely THROUGH THAT SORT OF FOOLHARDINESS WHICH MAKES A MOCK AT DEATH.

You will not expect me to describe all the horrors of a state which some can regard in the height of their infatuation only as a subject for mockery and idle bravado. Haring taken upon myself the arduous task of bringing up in one state the feeling of a very different state of existence, and connecting its observation with that,--I shall be satisfied if I can adequately perform the same-adequately, I mean, to the great end for which the prospect of death was divinely held out to mankind among their first perceptions, without acting too forcibly on the feelings of some who may be more alive than some others to such serious impressions. “Knowing therefore the terrors of the Lord, we persuade men :” (Cor. II. v. 11:) but we do not wish to frighten them, as evil nurses are wont to frighten children. Let me only observe, that THE PROSPECT OF DEATH ought to be more terrible to the very best of us than it is; considering how the Conqueror of death himself— how the Conqueror of this last enemy that shall be destroyed - how even he was agitated, if not terrified thereat, as mentioned in a passage of his Gospel or Life: which has been alluded to by an apostolic writer in another passage (Heb. v. 7) lately cited. For the Gospel informs us, how that sacred person, the very Conqueror and Plague of death, (Cor. I. xv. 54; Hos. xiii. 14,) went out after supper the same night that he was captured, “ as he was wont, to the mount of Olives; and his disciples also followed him. And when he was at the place, he said unto them, Pray that ye enter not into temptation. And he was withdrawn from them about a stone's cast, (not quite out of hearing,) and kneeled down, and prayed, saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.-And BEING IN AN AGONY he prayed most earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” (Luke xxii. 39, &c.) It does not appear what the Redeemer farther prayed, and for the reason that occurs in the following verse: his disciples were too infirm to regard, and consequently unable to record, it. “And he said unto them, Why sleep ye?” (Ib. 46.)

The same may be said on the subject that we are now considering : indeed, without feeling the awfulness of this event, we can have no proportionate conception of the sacrifice of our Saviour's death. And if the prospect of such event was enough to produce a more than mortal agony in him, notwithstanding the consolation which the burden brought with it, that the same should be but for a short continuance, and have the effect of working for him a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;" (Cor. II. iv. 17 ;)-much more ought it to agonize others, seeing they know neither how long such a burden may continue with them, nor yet by how much worse it may be followed! Yet so common is it now for men to forget their latter end apparently, that it would seem almost as if the generality were able to think of nothing less. Nay; it is even credible, that some, instead of wishing to get a fair prospect, or at least a fair understanding of an event so solemn and unavoidable, do rather study to forget it; as well as the


of the divine wrath” which is shewn therein, and which the Psalmist intimates as meted to every one in proportion to his disregard of the same. “But who regardeth the power of thy wrath? (says he) for even thereafter as a man feareth, so is thy displeasure.” (Ps. xc. 11.)

For death and judgment being joined together in one and the same dispensation according to the Psalmist's intimation, and according to a direct assertion in the Gospel, “ It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment,” (Heb. ix. 27,)- the certainty of the former by daily experience, may be considered as a very sufficient evidence of the latter according to law. If death had never yet been exemplified to our eyes we might as reasonably doubt of death as of judgment, seeing there can be nothing inore wonderful in judgment than in death : but as we cannot doubt of this which is equally wonderful, its strangeness at least will not seem enough to warrant a doubt of that, if there be any thing else to make it incredible. Yet

1, This Strangeness, or irreconcileable effect of the dispensation, which is something more than mystery through the blindness before alluded to, may be assigned as a common, however unreasonable, cause of men's overlooking, or putting aside the consideration-of the same, and even denying it in practice, if they cannot in profession; because they wish to be wise in this respect, however unwise in the other. And when we consider the awfulness of death through its connexion and consequences, we may wonder almost, how any rational being should ever be able to regard this infliction, which he knows must be coming upon him, and knows not how soon, with seeming indifference; it is such a moral phenomenon as may deserve consideration, or at least the attempt to enumerate a few more of its forms as well as causes subordinate to the first, now mentioned. Thus

2, A second cause of people's attending so little as many seem to do, and many also do, no doubt, to the paramount prospect of death-compared with the attention that some of them are apt to bestow on matters of no importance, appears in that very great reconciler, Habit: which can make by degrees any sights, sounds or reflections easy that may fall within its range; which, however, does not extend perhaps to futurity. The horror which the sight of death may well excite in us at first, if it were ever adequate to the occasion, will yield to the effect of habit: the personal apprehensions that we consequently feel will be subdued, and the shock diminished by a frequent survival of those around us; and as for the dying of those at a distance, however it may be in wild and almost uninhabited countries where every being tells—in other places, as in towns and cities, in camps and garrisons where death is frequent, it is scarcely regarded. Hence both a standing army and a dense population are unfavourable to the morality of the Kingdom, by sapping and undermining one of its principal bulwarks--in the fear of death. And hereupon

3, A third cause of culpable indifference to the prospect of this great event of a more positive kind is owing sometimes to the error of a military education, which teaches men to despise this formidable enemy and all his reasonable terrors; instead of endeavouring to disarm him of the same by ways and means which are to be found in a camp as well as in a convent, and may be thought worth cultivating by generals who tender the souls as well as the lives of their followers, and their eternal happiness as well as their present success. But that other is a training to Foolhardiness, instead of real courage : and when we talk of “the scourge of war," we may certainly include this unfortunate consequence among its severest applications, if it happen to fall on the shoulders of the applicants, turning the scourge as it were upon themselves.

4, Such foolhardiness, as it deserves to be called, rather than courage, is one delusion which the father of lies know's how to practise upon his credulous victims; but not to be compared for strangeness and impudence with that of conTESTING A FACT SO INDISPUTABLE AS DEATH: which he practises too very successfully on most of us; taking advantage of that very Uncertainty which has been stated as an aggravation of the evil, and making men as supine and careless as if they knew they should not surely die, when they know they surely inust; because they know not, when. It is wonderful how the apprehension of death may

be quelled by our uncertainty of its approach. The convict who is assured of his dissolution at a certain hour looks forward to that hour with the keenest apprehension of which he is susceptible; while others in court, who may be cut off before he perhaps, shall think no more of their latter end than as if they were sure it would not happen for generations to come. In the midst of life death will appear to the sinner like a dream, because the devil tells him it is so: but God tells us otherwise ; and in time we begin to perceive where the truth lies;—and then, oh what a dream is life! For it is in the nature of some men when they have a little stock of money, to think that it must last for ever; and many do the same by life: they think their little life must last for ever, or else forget that it must have an end; being dead, as they are in the midst of life (and the rather for its full enjoyment) to this, with many another wholesome apprehension. Hence the common advantage of health and prosperity for performing a good part in life is foolishly thrown away by the best, or however by the biggest part of a generation ; unless the scourge should be providentially applied in some unusual way, to quicken their industry; when there may be a chance of their doing somewhat. “For when thy judgments are in the earth (says the prophet) the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness.” (Isai. xxvi. 9.) So likewise when we are withdrawn from the world any how; by banishment, by a voluntary retirement, or only by the ordinary means of abstraction in sleep, we may happen to have some feeling or forecast of this awful change beyond what we ever had in the world, or in waking. Which indicates

5, Another cause of that false security and how the World has been getting into our confidence, if it have not abused the same to that extent which we perceive sometimes in others less favoured by divine Providence: who have never been taught by Christ, nor by any other authority but the world and the prince of this world,” which is the devil, how to choose among things that differ, nor



« PreviousContinue »