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doubts, and terror, and apprehension. I need not point you to the closing hours of the excellent Cowper, in illustration of this remark; you yourselves have probably beheld similar scenes.
Sometimes this darkness continues to the very termination of life; but more frequently it is dissipated before dissolution.
If we consider the cuuses of this darkness, we shall only be surprised that it is not more frequent. These causcs are various.
The first and most common is the coldness and lukewarmness of those who experience it; by a life inconsistent with their engagements and their privi, leges, they made an assignation with terror to meet them on their bed of death. They had the Christian graces, but they suffered these graces to wither. Instead of continually cultivating spiritual mindedness, they had been too much attached to the pleasures, or riches, or honours of the world : instead of a close walk with God, and of keeping the things of eternity fresh upon their souls, they lived too much as do those who have never tasted the grace of the Redeemer; they have indeed built upon Christ as the only foundation, but they have placed much “ hay and stubble” upon this foundation; and therefore, in the language of the apostle, though they are saved, “ it is so as by fire.” (1 Cor. iii. 10, &c.) Though they are among the wise virgins, they have slumbered, and are therefore filled with alarm at the unexpected coming of the bridegroom. Such persons as these can look for no special cordials in their last hours; no peculiar supports in the moments of dissolution : recalling their many neglects of duty, the little that they have done to glorify their Redeemer or advance his cause; having lived without daily selfexamination, and constant converse with God and the Saviour through the eternal Spirit, it is not wonderful that their last hours should be clouded with doubt, and that they should depart from this world trembling, uncertain whether they are going to heaven or to hell. Since such is often the just punishment of God upon the slothful Christian, let us rouse ourselves, my brethren; instead of lying thoughtlessly • at ease in Zion,” let us endure hardships as good soldiers of Christ,” “ quit ourselves like men," and fight courageously the battles of the Lord; let us secure the blessing promised to him “whom, when his Lord cometh, he shall find watching!"
But there are lively and active Christians who expire in terror and alarm. For this no doubt God has reasons which we do not always understand. Frequently we must bend and adore, reverencing the darkness in which he shrouds himself, confessing that his wisdom is unscarchable, and acknowledging that
“ He moves in a mysterious way
But we may suppose that he sometimes permits : (to use an expression of Flavel) “ a bright sun to set
under a dark cloud,” in order to teach us not to judge of the future state of a man merely by his death-bed exercises. This is an error to which we are far too prone; an error, that in its consequences, is most pernicious. The Lord, therefore, for the benefit of survivers, suffers him whose life gave the most splendid proofs of picty; whose “path was like that of the shining light, shining more and more unto the perfect day;" of whose salvation we can entertain no doubt, to go down in darkness, that we may feel
that it is from a holy and devoted life that we must derive our best hopes of the happiness of the pious.
The Lord permits this to teach us our absolute dependence upon the freeness and riches of his grace, for our spiritual comforts. If these were always connected with a holy life; if every one who died safely, died also triumphantly, we should imagine that the communication of these special joys to the pious, was necessary and unavoidable. To teach us that they are dispensed “according to the good pleasure of his will,” and to inspire us with gratitude for that portion of them which we or our friends feel, he sometimes withholds them from those who are the objects of his dearest affection.
The Lord permits this in order to alarm the careless, and bring them to repentance. If many a sinner has been attracted by the triumphs of a departing Christian, and compelled to exclaim, “Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his !" so also, many have been terrified, and brought to serious reflection by the doubts and apprehensions of the expiring believer. They have gone from the sick chamber exclaiming, “If death be so awful to one who has lived as the servant of God, what must it be to me, a rebel against him? If one ! who has glorified the Redeemer, finds the swellings of Jordan" so dreadful, when just beyond them is for him the promised land, what must be the fury of those waves with which I must contend, and which will bear me, if I die in my present state, to the gulf of eternal despair? “ If the righteous scarcely are saved, where, oh where! will the wicked and uni godly appear?" Such reflections are calculated deeply to impress the sinner, and cause him to 6 flee from the wrath which is to come."
May we not suppose also, that this is sometimes permitted, in order to make us properly and gratefully estimate the grace of Jesus in submitting to that mysterious dereliction of his Father upon the cross, under which he cried, “ My God, my God! why hast thou forsaken me?” When we view the pangs and the agonies of these pious men; their longings and pantings after the light of God's countenance; the readiness with which they would renounce all created joys for this blessing; can we fail to raise our grateful praises to Him, who, that we might have joy and triumph, underwent a desertion far more grievous ; consented to have the light of that countenance, of which from eternity he had made his only joy, eclipsed for a season, and to have all those infinite delights intermitted, the full value of which he only could appreciate?
But if these are probably some of the reasons why, at times, the pious are permitted to expire in apprehension and in doubt, there are also inferior causes to account for this dispensation.
It sometimes is produced by the violent assaults of evil spirits. As they most furiously assailed the Saviour in the garden just before his death, so do they also act towards his members ; as they most violently tortured the demoniac just before they were ejected, so do they endeavour to harass and distress the believer the more, as they perceive the hour is at hand, when he shall be entirely free from their malice and seductions; and they now make this assault with the more readiness, because from the state of the soul, distracted in its powers, they hope for more
Imperfect views of divine truth; of the scheme of redemption; of the nature, the extent, the freeness,
and the grace of the Christian covenant, may produce the same effect. A man may be a sincere believer, and yet from prejudice, from education, or other causes, may have erroneous sentiments, which, without dissolving the union of his soul to Christ, may mar his comforts and overshadow him with gloom.
Sometimes it results from a habit too frequent even among good men, of building their comfort only on sensible joys and manifestations, instead of deriving it from the grace and stability of the covenant, from its everlasting promises, and from the steady adherence of the soul to Christ. This was the case with a good man oppressed with melancholy, who cried to a pious minister who came to visit him, “ O'what will you say of him who is going out of the world, and can find no comfort?" • What will you say;" (was the satisfactory and impressive answer,) " what will you say of our Saviour Christ, who, when going out of the world, found no comfort, but cried out “ My God, my God! why hast thou forsaken me?” The answer reached his heart; he felt that faith and the joy of faith are not inseparable, and became tranquil and composed.
In consequence of the intimate connexion of the soul and the body, and the operation of one upon the other, there is no doubt that the despondency of some pious persons upon their death-beds, has been the effect of a temperament constitutionally melancholy, or of the bodily languor consequent upon exhaustion.
And finally, there are some who recoil from the . tomb, in consequence of the natural fear of death implanted in us; and who, because they are thus afraid