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after death-whether, if conscious, it possesses. any power of retrospect over earthly scenes whether it is immortal-whether it enters, in its new mode of being, upon a fixed state of sorrow or joy, of shame or honor.-On all these points the heathen were ignorant; although many of them were not quite so unconcerned as numbers who enjoy the pure light of the gospel, and boast of their liberal attainments; but with whom, in that great and terrible day of the Lord, the worst of the pagans would be unwilling to change places.
2. With the resurrection of the body the heathen were absolutely unacquainted. . Flesh and blood could not reveal it to them. There are sighings, misgivings, reverential feelings towards the dead, analogies of nature, which eagerly fall in with the doctrine of the resurrection once made known: but which could never lead to the discovery, or even suspicion, of its truth. The apostles who taught it, until God opened the eyes of their hearers, were regarded as fanatics. In respect to the body, therefore, Death brought with him into every pagan house, dejection, horror, black despondence.
Under these circumstances, what shall arrest the current of mourning, and lamentation, and
Where is the voice of the comforter ? or what bosom can find room for comfort, which Vol. I.
affords no entrance to hope? Oh! it is despair that kills!
Such was paganism bending over the remains of a deceased friend. Such, too, was Judaism, after it had rejected the Hope of Israel, and the Savior thereof. Such are still the millions, whether of Gentiles or Jews, who know not God.
And wherein have unbelievers among ourselves the pre-eminence? What have they to gild their evening hour, to bind up their aching head, to soothe their laboring heart? What living hope descends from heaven to smile on the sinking features, whisper peace to the retiring spirit, and announce to the sad surrounding relatives that all is well ? There is none ! Astonishment, dismay, melancholy boding, are the portion of their cup. Sit down, ye unhappy, in the desolation of grief. Consolation heard the voice of your weeping: she hastened to your door, but started back affrighted; her commission extends not to your house of mourning ; ye have no hope!
But, Christians, believers in the Lord Jesus, your condition is widely different, and so must be your carriage. You, too, must resign, many of you have already resigned, some of you very recently, your believing friends to the stroke of death. You must feel, have felt, the pang of separation. You are not forbidden to mourn. The smitten heart will bleed; the workings of nature must have vent. It is right. Tears were not made that they should never be shed; nor the passion of grief implanted only to be stifled. God's gifts to us in the persons of those whom he animates with his love, beautifies with his image, and honors with his communion, are too precious to be relinquished without emotion. It would be a strange way of gloryfying him for the best of his earthly blessings, to behave, when they are removed, as if they were not worth one thought. Nor could there be a fouler stain upon the religion of the cross, than a tendency to extinguish affections calculated, in a peculiar manner, to lessen the evils of our miserable world. No! the
No! the grace which bringeth salvation does not destroy, but restore, the man.
All that belongs to him, excepting sin and its effects she acknowledges, regulates, exalts. Jesus, the perfection of moral beauty, Jesus himself wept at the tomb of his friend. He has dignified as well as vindicated, by his example, the most sacred of our social feelings. And if we, sharing his sympathy, weep at the tomb of those who are not less his friends than our own, instead of falling beneath the level of profane fortitude, we rise up to the grandeur of fellowship with the Man of sorrows. Settle it, therefore, Christian brethren, as a principle not to be shaken, that your religion disclaims alike all kindred with apathy and with frenzy. Mourn you may when the desire of your eyes goes down to the dust; but you must not mourn as those who have no hope. For hope, even the sweetest hope that can lodge in the human breast, is yours. Let your mourning, therefore, be tempered, submissive, holy. Yield not to brooding sadness. Transfer your tears from the cold face of your friend to the feet of your Master, and there compose your souls to serenity and peace. This is evangelical counsel; the counsel of my text. On what grounds it is offered; the reason why it should have a complete ascendancy over our minds, is the
II. part of discourse.
For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.
The grounds of our consolation with respect to departed saints are, the nature of their death -their condition in and after it—and the prospect of their glorious resurrection.
1. The very nature of death, as it comes to believers, is a source of satisfaction; an antidote to excessive sorrow. They sleep.
Not that we are to imagine, with some dreaming speculatists, that the souls of the righteous
remain unconscious and torpid during the period which elapses between the death and resurrection of their bodies. This cheerless doctrine, desirable to those only. whose hearts have never been warmed by the love of Christ, was far enough from the faith and the theology of Paul. He had no cause to congratulate the church, as he does in the twelfth chapter of his epistle to the Hebrews, on her coming to the spirits of just men made perfect, if, instead of beholding the face of God in light and glory, they are inert and insensible as a clod. Nor could he who longed to depart and be with Christ, accounting it the same thing to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord, suppose that all his faculties and affections were to be suspended; and all his opportunities of serving his adorable Redeemer to be taken away, by death, for scores of centuries together. The Lord have mercy upon them for whom such a prospect has any charms ! !
The apostle's words have quite another sound in the ears of faith—they are fraught with consolation fragrant as the breath of the morning, refreshing as the dews of heaven. It is true—a delightful truth—that the bodies of the saved, which at death their souls leave in order to be with Jesus, do rest in their graves. But it is chiefly in reference to their happy decease—their safe and comfortable departure, combined as it