« السابقةمتابعة »
tried a champion as David until he recollected a particular that we may also have occasion to recollect:“ I should utterly have fainted, (says he,) but that I believe verily, to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. So foolish was I and ignorant; even as it were a beast before thee: for thou hast holden me by thy right hand.” (Ps. xxvii. 15; lxxiii. 21, 22.) For if a dimness of the corporeal sight be deplorable when we have a particular occasion to try it, certainly a dimness of the intellectual towards objects so interesting as those I have just mentioned must be much more so, especially from the consequences before alluded to; being
2. A spiritual Death: which only towards human and inferior objects is sufficiently serious, much more so towards the divine Supreme. I say,
1, Such a spiritual death as may consist only in the loss of friendship and sympathy-even to the degree of viewing with indifference the departure of a fond parent must, all prejudice apart, be deemed a sad privation : how much more
2, A death to the knowledge, or sense and perception of our heavenly Father, with his never failing kindness towards those who live to him, and are alive to his goodness! But still, this heavy privation may seem lighter than the first mentioned intellectual death ; as happening in a lower sphere. And
3. So likewise by a parity of reasoning, may that corporeal Death, which is naturally regarded most by the sons of the earth, be regarded as lighter again than the spiritual in suffering, as it is so in importance.
Thus it may appear how the body of this death grows, if I may so say, and is constituted step by step, or joint by joint. It begins with the understanding, creeps therefrom to the spirit, and settles at last in the body: whence its three species, the intellectual, spiritual, and corporeal aforesaid. It could not be for any kindness to the original sufferers, but to another, that our heavenly Father was
pleased to withdraw the blessing of his Presence, or, as it is metaphorically termed in Scripture, the Tree of Life, from them (Gen. iii. 22) on their first offence, with all the pure enjoyments of Paradise, whether visible or invisible, every tree that was pleasant to the sight and good for food, “the Tree of life also in the midst of the garden." (Ib. ii. 9.) For when the Presence of God, and therewith bis Holy Spirit, was withdrawn from man in consequence of his misconduct, the communication between the Fountain of life and our hapless race was completely broken up, or abolished. Then began, with that very rupture, a death unto righteousness,-a death to all the evidences of truth,-a death to the sense of religion and futurity,-a death to all sense of duty,—to every noble interest,—to what is fondly termed, Natural Affection,-to good taste, - to outward grace,-to the melody of the heart,--and to other good principles of which we have now the shadow only. Then began the unfeeling heart, as well as the vapid sentiment; and from that period too, recklessness of other men's lives, as well as of self-preservation, may be dated. In short, with the Presence of God, then went there wholly or in part every good gift received from him in creation-every primitive endowment worth preserving. We may have some idea of the puissance of an enemy that can operate with such fatal effect in three quartersthe mind, the soul, the body-at once, by the devastation that he has committed in each ; as the track of a conqueror is generally indicated by desertion and ruin. And
§ 2. In like manner the mischief of such a scourge for humanity is also to be estimated by the kind of Force or Weapon with which it is promoted. We do not find it altogether uppleasant to be overcome with some weapons, - with the weapon of generosity and kindness-rendering good for evil, with the weapon of persuasion and argument --rendering a sound reason, with the weapon of a great example-which shames us into imitation ; for these are HEALING WEAPONS. But it is not pleasant-it is terrible, to be overcome with weapons that torture more than defeat, rankling in the captive's wounds—like the sting of death. For “the sting of death is sin.”
1. The principal aggravation of the general calamity of death is found in the continuance of its original cause, like that of a continual descent. To be hurried downward at that rate-we know not how deep, is what alarms us. It has been said, that it is conscience that makes cowards of us all : but with too much latitude, as it would seem; because there seem to be cowards without conscience, as well as brare men with it; and if the fear of death owe much to conscience, it must owe more in fact to the want of it; as the proper sting of death is sin, which conscience would rather prevent than encourage: and with conscience or without, he will find the same sting for us in his first cause, only stinging most sensibly in the end perhaps where he has been least apprehended, and consequently his nature is least understood.
2. Among inferior or auxiliary aggravations therefore by which the sting of death is pointed as it were, we may reckon the Mystery that hangs about this evil. It is one that has never happened to us yet, that we know of; and we cannot make it out: there lies the difficulty. For it seems, if we could only make the case out, we should not be so much amazed at it: though even then we should still be at a loss for the means of averting the same.
Or if we could only be aware of the time and manner in which “the last enemy” is to make his approach, we might summon our aid; or if no aid was near, our resolution at least, to meet him. And “ if the good man of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up.” (Matt. xxiv. 43.) “But of that day and that hour knoweth no man.” (Mark xiii. 32.) Of other“ things done in the body” we have generally some sense and perception; but of this none; at least, we give yo sigu of it.
And such is the sleep of death; no starting, no breathing, no exclamation, no dreaming apparently, nor consciousness of any sort,—nor any perceptible interval either to the day of the resurrection : no; not between the last sigh in this life, and the first in the next; not between the latest whisper of the priest, and the archangel's trump; not between the presence of a few select witnesses weeping, and of guilty millions trembling; not between a death-bed, and a divine tribunal; not between mortal pains, and immortal pains or consolations. “For yourselves know perfectly, that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night;" (Thess. I. v. 2.)
3. It is true, that the Suddenness of the event has nothing in it to alarm those who may be duly prepared for the same: but that is also a mystery through the many ways in which it may befall us; by falling, by drowning, by quarrelling, by waylaying and murdering,—sometimes by wrong medicine, sometimes by a wrong prescription; and all these from mankind, or ourselves: to say nothing of the outward visitations of divine Providence mentioned in our Litany,- lightning and tempest; plague, pestilence and famine; which we do not think so much of because they are not so frequent in this as in many less favoured countries : to say nothing also of the many nearer and more direct methods by which the same divine Providence can, and often does, send instant death upon offenders, to“consume them in a moment:" which makes such suddenness a matter of serious concern, however coolly we may deprecate, and often do, this aggravation of an extreme calamity in the use of the excellent form just alluded to.
Indeed they are all considerable aggravations of an evil that to some would hardly seem susceptible of any: but its proper burden, as its proper foundation, is the sting, namely the sting of sin before mentioned. “ The sting of death is sin;" as the sting of sin is death: and it seems but just, that sin, being the cause of death, should be punished in its own consequence, as the poisoner of our joys. While 4. “ That sin might become exceeding sinful;" that is, fully efficient, or fully entitled to its evil meed-in addition to the natural sting of death we find another aggravation, an artificial sting, a very stubborn auxiliary, in the Law: that being the strength of sin, as death is the sting, and sin the sting of death. “Nay; I had not known sin, but by the law,” (Rom. vii. 7,) says St. Paul. “For without the law sin was dead.” (Ib. 8.)
5. Hence it would appear, that another aggravation of this evil is found in the Life of sin ; which we owe to the law, as the same apostle goes on to say aster observing, that without the law sin was dead: he says, “I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died : and the commandment which was ordained to life I found to be unto death.” (Rom. vii. 9, 10.) Such is the perverseness of human nature ! And if all could end here, the evil might still be comparatively light: but we know “the end is not yet.” (Matt. xxiv. 6.) For
6. After the life of sin we have still to regard a farther consequence in what is considered a second and more lasting death, if it should not rather be considered as a life of suffering. And then,
§ 3. Considering the Prospect of the event, or the same in anticipation ; how can any one help regarding death as a great calamity, or help regarding it with fear and horror? It may be said, That death being inevitable, where were the use of fearing it? Or how can we fear an accident which we know to be inevitable? But the same may be said of minor evils; like hunger and thirst, ill will and obloquy, with many of their sort as inevitable as death: which still we fear enough to think proper to provide against them. The idlest part is not to fear sufficiently: and, whatever the world may think, indifference to the prospect of death is so far from being a virtue, that it comple tely precludes the noblest part in relation thereto, which is braving it. For how can one be said to brave what one