Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

On the Philosophy of Descartes. We may say generally, the world is made by figure and motion, for that is true; but to say what figure and motion, and to specify the composition of the machine, is perfectly ridiculous; for it is useless, questionable, and laborious. But, if it be all true, the whole of the philosophy is not worth an hour's thought.

CHAPTER XXII.

THOUGHTS ON DEATH, EXTRACTED FROM A LETTER OF

M. PASCAL, ON THE OCCASION OF THE DEATH OF HIS FATHER

WHEN we are in affliction, owing to the death of some friend whom we loved, or some other misfortune that has happened to us, we ought not to seek for consolation in ourselves, nor in our fellow-creatures, nor in any created thing; we should seek it in God only. And the reason is, that creatures are not the primary cause of those occurrences which we call evils. But that the providence of God being the true and sole cause of them, the arbiter and the sovereign, we ought, undoubtedly, to have recourse directly to their source, and ascend even to their origin, to obtain satisfactory alleviation. For, if we follow this precept, and consider this afflicting bereavement, not as the result of chance, nor as a fatal necessity of our nature, not as the sport of those elements and atoms of which man is formed (for God has not abandoned his elect to the risk of caprice or chance) but as the indispensible, inevitable, just, and holy result of a decree of the providence of God, to be executed in the fulness of time ; and, in fact, that all which happens has been eternally present and pre-ordained in God; if, I say, by the teachings of grace we consider this casualty, not in itself, and independently of God, but viewed independently of self, and as in the will of God, and in the justice of his decree, and the order of his Providence; which is, in fact, the true cause, without which it could not have happened, by which alone it has happened, and happened in the precise manner in which it has; we should adore in humble silence the inaccessible elevation of His secrecy; we should venerate the holiness of His decrees; we should bless the course of His providence; and, uniting our will to the very will of God, we should desire with Him, in Him, and for Him, those very things which He has wished in us, and for us, from all eternity.

2. There is no consolation but in truth. Unquestionably there is nothing in Socrates or Seneca which can soothe or comfort us on these occasions. They were under the error, which, in blinding the first man, blinded all the rest. They have all conceived death to be natural to man; and all the discourses that they have founded upon

this false principle, are so vain and so wanting in solidity, that they have only served to shew, by their utter uselessness, how very feeble man is, since the loftiest productions of the greatest minds are so mean and puerile.

It is not so with Jesus Christ; it is not so with the canonical Scriptures. The truth is set forth there: and consolation is associated with it, as infallibly as that truth itself is infallibly separated from error. Let us regard death then, by the light of that truth which the Holy Spirit teaches. We have there à most advantageous means of knowing that really and truly death is the penalty of sin, appointed to man as the desert of crime, and necessary to man for his escape from corruption : that it is the only means of delivering the soul from the motions of sin in the members, from which the saints are never entirely free, while they live in this world. We know that life, and the life of Christians especially, is a continued sacrifice, which can only be terminated by death. We know that Jesus Christ, when he came into this world, considered himself, and offered himself to God as a sacrifice, and as a real victim; that his birth, his life, his death, resurrection and ascension, and his sitting at the right hand of the Father, are but one and the same sacrifice. We know that what took place in Jesus Christ, must occur also in all his members.

Let us consider life then as a sacrifice, and that the accidents of life make no impression on the Christian mind, but as they interrupt or carry on this sacrifice. Let us call nothing evil but that which constitutes the victim due to God a victim offered to the devil ; but let us call that really good, which renders the victim due in Adam to the devil, a victim sacrificed to God; and by this rule, let us examine death.

For this purpose we must have recourse to the person of Jesus Christ: for as God regards men only in the person of the mediator, Jesus Christ, men also should only regard either others, or themselves, mediately through him.

If we do not avail ourselves of this mediation, we shall find in ourselves nothing but real miseries or abominable evils : but if we learn to look at every thing through Jesus Christ, we shall always obtain comfort, satisfaction, and instruction.

Let us look at death then through Christ, and not without him. Without Christ it is horrible, detestable; it is the abhorrence of human nature. In Jesus Christ it is very different; it is lovely, holy, and the joy of the faithful. All trial is sweet in Jesus Christ, even death. He suffered and died to sanctify death and suffering; and as God and man, he has been all that is great and noble, and all that is abject, in order to consecrate in himself all things, except sin, and to be the model of all conditions of life.

In order to know what death is, and what it is in Jesus Christ, we should ascertain what place it holds in his one eternal sacrifice; and with a view to this, observe, that the principal part of a sacrifice is the death of the victim. The offering and the consecration which precede it, are preliminary steps, but the actual sacrifice is death, in which the creature, by the surrender of its life, renders to God all the homage of which it is capable, making itself nothing before the eyes of His majesty, and adoring that Sovereign Being which exists essentially and alone. It is true that there is yet another step after the death of the victim, which is God's acceptance of the sacrifice, and which is referred to in the Scripture, as Gen. viii. 21. And God smelled a sweet savour. This certainly crowns the offering ; but then this is more an act of God towards the creature, than of the creature to God; and does not therefore alter the fact that the last act of the creature is his death.

All this has been accomplished in Jesus Christ. When he came into the world he offered himself. So Heb. ix. 14. Through the eternal Spirit, he offered himself to God. When he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldst not, but a body thou hast prepared me. Then, said

1, Lo I come, in the volume of the book it is written of me, to do thy will, O God; yea, thy law is within my heart. Heb. x. 5. Psalm xl. 7,8. Here is his oblation; his sanctification followed immediately upon his oblation. This sacrifice continued through his whole life, and was completed by his death. So Luke xxiv. 26. Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and entered into his glory. And again, Heb. v. In the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications, with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, he was heard in that he feared ; and though he were a son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered. And God raised him from the dead, and caused his glory to rest upon him, (an event formerly prefigured by the fire from heaven which fell upon the victims to burn and consume the body,) to quicken him to the life of glory. This is what Jesus Christ has obtained, and which was accomplished at his resurrection.

This sacrifice, therefore, having been perfected by the death of Jesus Christ, and consummated even in his body by the resurrection, in which the likeness of sinful flesh has been swallowed up in glory, Jesus Christ had done all on his part; it remained only that the sacrifice be accepted of God; and that, as the smoke ose and carried the odour to the throne of God, so Jesus Christ should be in this state of complete immolation, offered, carried up, and received at the throne of God itself; and this was accomplished in his ascension, in which, by his own strength, and by the strength of the Holy Spirit, supplied to him continually, he ascended up on high. He was borne up as the smoke of those victims who were typical of Jesus Christ, was carried up buoyant on the air, which is a type of the Holy Spirit. And the Acts of the Apostles state

« ForrigeFortsæt »