صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

received at his hand. I can thank him for the development of my faculties, for the development of my reason, for the tracing bis handy work in this magnificent dwelling-place, and acquainting myself with him as revealed in the Gospel of his Son. I can thank him for the opportunity allowed me of serving him in the flesh : it were no privilege not to have had the opportunity. I can thank him for the afflictions from which early death might have exempted me; for, rightly endured, they work out “a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory." So that we regard it as nothing better than the effusions of a poetic and sentimental theology, that the infant is necessarily advantaged by not living to be a man. We doubt not that the infant is advantaged, because we doubt not that God does nothing which is not, on the whole, for the best. But when men would prove the advantageousness by speaking of the trouble escaped, and the joy obtained, we remind them that, as to the troubles, they discipline us for eternity, and, as to the joys, they will undoubtedly be proportionate to present attainment. No, brethren; if now a believer in the Saviour of sinners, I have abundant cause for hearty thanksgiving that I died not in my infancy: I have a nobler prospect before me than I should had my days been shortened. I am sure of a greatness which I never could have reached had I only just touched the earth and sprung upwards, tarrying not either to taste its cares or to labour in its duties. That the powers of the infant will be matured in a future state, 80 that capacities not here unfolded will be brought out and perfected—and that employment in God's service denied below, will be granted above-this opinion cannot be doubted; though it may be difficult to conceive how the soul, fitted for being instructed in the regions of sense, shall reach her strength, and gain her knowledge, when stripped from the covering of this appointed machinery. But there can be no debate that the operations of eternity will be adjusted to our growth, whilst on earth, in the various Christian graces : and, therefore, neither does it seem to admit question, that the portion of infants will be amongst the lowest. We cannot suppose that the suckling, taken from the earth ere it could give itself to the service of God, will approach hereafter, in glory and blessedness, the veteran saint who has honoured his Maker during a long life, and laboured unweariedly to advance the kingdom of Christ. I can believe that the martyred innocents of Bethlehem shall wear a rich crown; but I cannot believe that it will be radiant as that of a Peter or a Paul.

I cannot believe, then, that it is a privilege to die young. Far better it will be to win the victory than to be spared the battle. Nevertheless it is impossible to prove, in any given case, that the infant is not advantaged by death. The infant might have lived an unbeliever many years, and have repented only when dying: certainly it were better to have passed at once into eternity, than to have denied God for half a century, and sought him in the last extremity, when, if there were time for the acting of faith, there was none for the working of love. And when you combine these several statements, you must perceive that, without supposing such a necessary advantageousness in early death as would make it more desirable than a life spent in faith and obedience, we may affirm of the innocents, that it was no injury to them that burial followed so quickly on birth. There is nothing therefore in God's permission of the murder which can be shown at variance with any divine truth. There were many ends, as we have proved to you, subserved by the permission ; and we cannot doubt that the innocents who fell by the sword at Bethlehem, gained by the exchange of earth for heaven. Hence the benefit to the survivors was purchased by no injustice to the slaughtered; and we trace the working of a righteous government in God's transaction with that sorrowing city.

The innocents of Bethlehem have always been reckoned by the Church amongst the martyrs ; for, though incapable of waking choice, God, we may believe, supplied the defect of their will by his own entertainment of their death. And it is beautiful to think, that as the spirits of these martyred little ones soared toward heaven, they may have been taught to look on the Infant in whose stead they had died; that He for whom they had been sacrificed was about to be sacrificed for them; and that they were mounting to glory on the merits of that defenceless babe, as he seemed then, hurrving as an outcast into Egypt. 0, the voice of weeping might have been heard in Rama, but those over whom the roused mother lamented, had entered heaven as the first-fruits to God and the Lamb, and were already celebrating the praises of Him whose blood, not yet shed, had provided for their ransom. Well might Rachel be bidden to restrain her weeping. The address to the sorrowing parent, applicable, as it primarily is, to the restoration of the scattered Israelites, might yet be spoken in its every part to the mothers of Bethlehem, and to those who, in any age of the Church, bewail their dead infants—“ Refrain thy voice from weeping, and thine eyes from tears: for thy work shall be rewarded, saith the Lord; and they shall come again froin the land of the enemy. And there is hope in thine end, saith the Lord, that thy children shall come again to their own border.” The mother's travail in bearing the children, as well as her work of prayer and faith for her children, shall be rewarded by her beholding them return froin the land of the last enemy, death, and landed in their own border, the heavenly Canaan.

Thus we can accommodate the whole prophecy referred to in our text, to the parents whom Herod's sword bereaved, and to those who, in our own day, bury their infants. And this is the practical use which we would make of the prophecy. Adapted as it is, by the Evangelist to the slaughter of Bethlehein, it may be regarded as a promise declaratory of the happiness of those who die young. “They shall come again from the land of the enemy." Their dust is as precious, and as carefully watched, as that of those who have fought the good fight, and professed a good profession before many witnesses. Their spirits have passed into the separate state ; and there, with those of the patriarchs, and prophets, and apostles, and saints, await the morning of the resurrection, that they may come again to their own border," a renovated creation changed into a new heaven and a new earth, wherein shall dwell righteousness. And if, then, death enter your families, and take as his prey those whose helplessness makes them especially the objects of your carefulness, you are not to lament with too intense a wailing, that the cradle is exchanged for the coffin-the warm embrace of the mother for the cold resting-place of the grave.

It is the last Sabbath of the year, as well as the Innocents Day. The funeral bell of the Innocents is the knell of another of our great divisions of time. There may be some of you who have buried young children during the past year; but too possibly there are others who will be called to this trial during the coming. Indeed it is a touching sight, that of parents performing the last

office to their children: it is like an inversion of the natural order. In the book of Genesis it is said, “And Haran died before his father Terah in the land of his nativity;" the circumstance being mentioned as worthy of note: Haran should have followed Terah, and not Terah Haran. We feel it natural -if any thing can be natural in a fallen and disorganized world—that children should close the eyes, and shroud the limbs of fathers and mothers, but unnatural that fathers and mothers should perform these sad duties for children. Hard seems it for the mother that she bring forth, and that what she had borne in anguish, and then gazed on in joy, should fade before her eyes, and wither in the bud, till she is forced to hide it in the earth, a wasted thing, and a cold, and a silent.

But “they shall come again froin the land of the enemy:" and therefore let those who have endured the bereavement, fortify themselves with the assurance, that to die young-whatever the other features of the case—is to die happily; and that, in taking from them children ere they knew evil from good, their heavenly Parent makes a better provision for them than their earthly could ever make; securing them a provision which would otherwise have hung in doubt-sparing them trouble which might not have worked for good_and educating them in a school where the only discipline is love, the only lesson imin ortality.




nave chosen the way of truth: thy judgments have I laid before me."-PSALM cxix, 30.

'T'HE earth is peopled by an infinite variety of rational beings; and yet, as in ke expressions of the countenance, and the sound and the intonation of the voice, so in the structure of the mind, and in the impulses and affections of the heart, there are perhaps no two persons exactly alike. Hence the child early acquires the distinctive faculty which never forsakes the man; and becomes intuitively conscious that there is a difference between persons, long before it is able to explain, or competent to discover, wherein that difference consists. The very infant will not usually pass from the mother's arms to those of a stranger, without manifest signs of unwillingness; and the unpractised eye of childhood rarely needs any assistance, or calls for consideration, in fixing upon the familiar face in the midst of many others on which it has been habituated to look; in the workings of the face it perceives nature's own impulse, the universal though unuttered language, the expression of sympathy, interest, confidence, and regard. Hence all know instinctively how to choose whom they may love, and how to abide by the choice when made. The first exercise of the intellect, is to separate from all others the parent, or the protector, or the friend; and the choice, confirmed by habit, becomes a fixed and rooted affection, which grows with our growth, and strengthens with our strength. We do not, indeed, say, that the child in whom intellect is just upon the dawn, is aware of all this; but the reality of the fact is practically manifested, so far as the opportunity is presented of displaying it: for it is not the absence of weeks, or months, or sometimes even of years, that will efface from the youthful heart the features of the most loved countenance, or render the youthful ear insensible to the melody of that gentle voice which can proceed from one alone among the millions inhabiting the earth.

Now this allowing for necessary variations-affords a lively image of the manner in which the pliant and ductile mind of youth may be trained to choose, not only "the way of truth," but God, who is truth itself. It is certain, indeed, that He, who is a spirit, cannot be visibly present to the eye, or made sensibly perceptible to the ear: but he can be apprehended by the understanding, and he can be realized in the heart. And if, acting upon this principle from the first, the mother would avail herself of the influence which nature gives her, to

* Addressed to Young Persons and Heads of Families.

point the opening intellect to God; and if the father would avail himself of the influence which early impressions give, to instil into the expanding mind the first simple idea of God; and if by both, or whoever may occupy their place, the associations of childhood were intertwined from the first with the practical conception of God here, God there, God everywhere-all objects formed by God, all benefits conferred by God, all trials imposed by God, and even all evils (for wise, though secret purposes) permitted by God-all words uttered in God's hearing, all actions performed in God's presence, all desires open to God's eye-all that is acted, uttered, conceived in secret, recorded and registered for God's judgment—if this were done from the first, the child might be trained, 0 how frequently! to choose God in heart, as he has chosen his mother, by sense—and to realize Christ by faith, as he realizes his father, by sight-he might be won to enter, almost without a consciousness of effort, that strait gate at which so many agonize, and some in vain; and to tread, almost without a thought of ever diverging or deviating, that strait and upward path of which many in later years have appeared to make trial for a season, but being disquieted or discouraged by the difficulties it presents, have, ere long, drawn back unto perdition.

Now, where there is a choice or persons, it is evident there can be a choice of things: and while, as to the present state of being, there is a great diversity of sensible objects to divide and to distract the attention of the young, in matters which concern the soul, the choice is greatly facilitated, because it can lie only between two. There may be, indeed, an endless variety of persons who walk in them, but the ways which lead across the wilderness to the grave, our common resting-place—and beyond the grave to the judgment-seat at which we must all stand—and beyond the judgment-seat of God, to the eternal and unchangeable abode of the undying soul, whether it be fixed in dungeons of darkness, or in mansions of unclouded right, in one or other of which every one of us must dwell for ever-the ways themselves are only two: and the writer of this divine Psalm has pointed them out to the observation of all, in the most simple and explicit terms; terms which none can mistake or misinterpret, and which all can understand. There is the way of lying, concerning which he prays, “ Remove it far from me;" the way of truth, concerning which he professes, “I have chosen it."

Now, “ the way of truth" is the way of God ; for the Lord is the God of truth: it is the way of Christ ; for, said he, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life :" it is the way of the Spirit; for “the Spirit beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth.” And as all that we know of God, and all that we know of Christ, and all that we know of the Spirit-of God who made us by his power, of Christ who redeemed us by his blood, of the Spirit who renews us oy his grace-is contained in the volume of the Holy Scriptures, “ the way of trutlı" is the way of God's word; for when Jesus prayed for his disciples,

Sanctify them through tny truth," he added, “ Thy word is truth.” Contrariwise, “the way of lying” is the way of the devil; for “he is a liar from the beginning, and the father of lies.” It is the way of our own hearts; for “the heart is deceitful above all things." It is the way of the world; for “ whoever will be a friend of the world is an enemy of God;" and “if any man will love the world, the love of the Father is not in him." Consequent

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