Page images
PDF
EPUB

THE HUMAN BODY AND SPIRIT AT DEATH.

19

aware weariness and pain may be exchanged for rottenness and dust. Our " time is appointed,” our “ months are numbered,” our “days are determined;" and when they are spent, we shall all be cold in the grave. But why is this? Why must the body so curiously and exquisitely wrought, so much loved and cherished, be thus broken in pieces and destroyed? We say because it is mortal; but how came it mortal ? Though it is but dust, yet it is not, therefore, of necessity perishable dust. The same being who wrought it into the shape of man, could as easily preserve it in that shape, as he now destroys it. The power that gave it life is surely able to sustain it in never fading vigour. We often err in this matter. We talk of death as coming in what we call the order of nature, and seem to regard it as a thing of course, as a part of the original portion and destination of our race. Thus we endeavour to conceal our shame. But as long as man continued sinless, death had no more power to touch his body than it had to destroy his soul. He became mortal when he became sinful. Dust he was, but it was not till he became rebellious dust, that he heard voice saying to him—“Unto dust shalt thou return.” When, therefore, we see the shrouded corpse and the open grave, it is in vain, it is worse than vain, it is deceptive to say, “See there the work of nature." Nature abhors the charge. That havoc is the work of sin. By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin, and so death passed upon all men, in that all have sinned.” It is in vain that we object to this statement, that we charge this dispensation with severity ; the stubborn fact remains—all that ever lived have died; and we in the midst of our objections, and cavils, and doubtings, are hastening to the dust. There is only one conclusion to which a rational enquirer can come; it is this—sin is a greater evil in the sight of God than it is in mine. I have yet to learn its malignity. No heart can conceive aright of its terrors. Such is the destination of the body, and such is the cause of it.

Let us look now at the destination of the soul. “ The spirit shall return unto God who

gave

it.” Here we are again baffled. Where is God? How does the spirit find him? By what strange means does it ascend to his abode? We may ask these questions, but who can answer them ? Probably the spirit itself could not, even after it has travelled this mysterious journey. It is certain that we, on this side of the grave, know nothing of the matter. We

may

think and talk about it, amuse ourselves, and perplex others; but as for comprehending it, we might as easily scale the heavens. We must end where we began. This is the extent of our knowledge;—“The spirit shall return to God." The Lord Jehovah always claims the spirit as his own.

“ All souls," says he,

are mine." If they are in a limited sense ours, they are so only because he has given them

He was at first the Father of our spirits ; they came from his hand. He is still their Lord. Hence when our bodies are about to turn to corruption he recalls them to himself. He might still confine them in their wretched habitations, force them to linger among their mouldering ruins, and witness their desolation ; imprison them in a dead as well as in a living frame; but he spares even the guilty this degradation. The body goes to the dust alone. The liberated spirit spurns the dust. Death beats down its prison walls, and then, like a captive exile, it hastens to be free, and a moment takes it to its native skies. Superstition, or affection, or pride may for a long time keep the body, at least a part of it from its destined home. But the soul-nothing can detain or delay it.

“ Return,” and ere the word has gone forth from his mouth, he sees it naked and trembling before his throne. This truth should correct an error into which many of us are very prone to fall. We often look

to us.

.

God says,

20

ANTIQUITY AND OBLIGATION OF THE SABBATH.

on the realities of eternity as very distant from us. We think that between us and the awful scenes we have heard of, many hundred years of insensibility and nothingness will intervene, that our souls will sleep in some unknown land till the close of all things. But where have we learned this notion ? Not from the Bible. There is not a declaration nor a word there, which can sanction it. On the contrary, there are many passages which go directly against it.

We are living just as near to eternity as we are to the grave. The hour your entering into heaven, or being cast into hell, is not one moment farther off than the hour of your own death. If you die to-day, where will to-morrow find your spirit ? Not hovering over its deserted clay ; not mingling unseen with your friends to sooth itself with their sorrow for its loss. No: it will be among eternal joys or eternal sorrows: far from all the abodes of men ; in the midst of the pardoned and glorified, or the condemned and lost. It will be one of them, taking its share in their wailings, or in their triumphant songs.

Hence we may observe that it is no light or trifling purpose for which “ the spirit returns to the God who gave it." It goes to him to give an account of all it has thought, and felt, and done, while in the flesh: of the use it has made of its own powers, and of the powers of that body over which it ruled. He sent it here that it might know, and love, and serve him. He sends for it again at death, to enquire whether it has fulfilled his work. It goes to him, therefore, to be judged, to appear at his bar, and receive its sentence. And then to enter on its final home. If found in Christ, washed in his blood, clothed in his righteousness, and made pure by his spirit, it will dwell in a world where it shall sorrow no more, fear no more, be unsatisfied no more. If found out of Christ, rising from its earthly tenement with the stains of unrepented sin polluting it, and the guilt of unpardoned sin testifying against it, it will be driven away in its wickedness, to await in darkness far from the presence of the Lord, and the glory of his power, the judgment of the great day; a day which will confirm all its fears, increase its anguish, and deepen its dispair.

We see then that each part of us goes to its own place when we die; each returns, is restored to its original source. The earth opens its bosom to receive its right, and it does receive it. Earth is given to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust. The great God claims the spirit. It goes to him ; he takes it, and disposes of it at his will. And in the destination of both he magnifies his own great name The body, as it perishes, declares his holinese in one word, while the soul, if lost, reveals it in another. If saved, it is saved to the praise of the glory of his grace.

It shines forth in the heavens, the brightest monument there of his unsearchable love.

The Pearl of Days. Antiquity and Obligation of appointment in the division of time into the Sabbath.

weeks—a practice to be found as far back

as the lights of history couduct us, and in THE Sabbath law dates from creation. lands the most remote from Palestine, and Let any man read Genesis ii. 2, 3, with a from each other. We trace it in the history mind not seeking to evade, but to elicit the of the Jews, before their peculiar polity divine will, and then say whether he does was given to them; when a miracle supplied not read there an appointment intended to them with a double portion of manna on be coeval and co-extensive with the human the sixth day, that on the seventh they race. We trace the marks of this primeval might not go out to gather, but keep an

THE SABBATH A GRAND RESTORATIVE.

21

undisturbed Sabbatic rest. Let those who prominence to this, the day of commemofind the Sabbath law among the merely ration was transferred from the seventh ceremonial appointments of Judaism, look to the first; that is, what was merely outthese facts in the face.

ward and positive was altered, but what Twenty-five centuries after the Sabbath was essential remained. One day in seven law had thus been given to man, it was was to be kept holy as from the first. republished, amid other moral appointments From henceforth the first day, and not the that had also been binding from the begin- seventh: but to call this an abrogation, or ning, from the summits of Sinai. This is a relaxation of the primitive appointment, the true view to take of the fourth com- would be as absurd as to say that when the mandment. It was not the enactment, for name of Jacob was changed to that of the first time, of a ceremonial observance Israel, he ceased to be the son of Isaac, and to be binding merely on the Israelites, but heir to the promises of God. Few exercises, the republication to the Israelites of an indeed, can be more rewarding or convinobservance that had been binding from the cing than to trace in the inspired history of beginning upon all. It was the restoration the church after the resurrection, the eviof a defaced inscription, not the writing of dence that the first day of the week, com. a new commandment, the range of whose mingling now the memorials of creation and authority was national. In other parts of of Calvary, was set apart by apostolic the Mosaic code, it is enforced by penalties authority to holy employments, until the and sanctions purely national, but the fourth beloved apostle in Patmos, could refer to it commandment itself is the original Sabbath as universally known and hallowed among law, anew expounded and promulgated. the churches, under the sacred name of We ask for the evidence of its subsequent “The Lord's Day.” Do facts like these repeal. As soon should we expect to hear savour of repeal or of relaxation? Or, do of an abrogation of the third or of the sixth. they not assure us, in the language of our

Did Christ or his disciples, then, relax Lord, that “the Sabbath was made for this appointment? It would be nearer the Man”—for the race: and hearing the truth-nay, it would be the very truth, to blessed institute bestowed as a charter say that they enforced it by new sanctions, upon the world at the beginning, renewed and hallowed it by new associations. What from Sinai, and again renewed from beside has been the essence and principle of the the empty grave of our risen Redeemer, Sabbath law from the beginning? That might we not address it in the words of the one day in seven shouid be kept holy to the poet to the unchanging oceanLord. Now, our Lord did in reference to

“Such as creation's dawn beheld, we see thee now." this law, what he did in reference to others -obeyed it in its true'spirit, and disencum

The Sabbath a Grand bered it from the rigid repulsiveness of those pharasaic glosses which made it be

Restorative. felt as a burden, rather than as a blessing The Sabbath is God's gracious present to and a birthright. By a few pertinent cases, a working world; and for wearied minds he illustrated those exceptions of works of and bodies it is the grand restorative. The necessity and mercy by which the law had Creator has given us a natural restorativebeen guarded and qualified from the first, sleep; and a moral restorative—Sabbath and which, though seeming to be excep- keeping; and it is ruin to dispense with tions, were really a following out of the either. Under the pressure of high exciteSabbath's own benignant spirit. It is only ment individuals have passed weeks togethe most ignorant captiousness, or the most ther with little sleep, or none; but when wicked perversity, that can find in his the process is long continued, the overeating and teaching in the house of the driven powers rebel, and fever, delirium, Pharisee, an apology for a Sunday dinner and death, come on. Nor can the natural party; or in his passing through the corn- amount be regularly curtailed without corfields, on some benignant errand, and responding mischief. The Sabbath does teaching as he went, a precedent for a not arrive like sleep. The day of rest Sabbath stroll.

does not steal over us like the hour of As little can the enemies of the Sabbath slumber. It does not entrance us wheiher find a place for the sole of their foot in we will or not; but addressing us as inthe example and arrangements of the telligent beings, our Creator assures us apostles. By their sanction, indeed, the that we need it, and bids us notice its return, Sabbath became the memorial of the and court its renovation. And if, rushing completed redemption, as well as of the in the face of our Creator's kindness, we completed creation; and, to give greater force ourselves to work all days alike, it is

22

DROPPINGS OF THE SANCTUARY.

morose

not long till we pay the forfeit. The mental treasures it devoutly up-the Lord of the worker—the man of business, or the man Sabbath keeps it for him, and in a length of letters—finds his ideas coming turbid and of days, and a hale old age gives it back slow; the equipoise of his faculties is up- with usury. The savings bank of human set; he grows moody, fitful, and capricious; existence is the weekly Sabbath-day.and with his mental elasticity broken, HAMILTON. should any disaster occur, he subsides into habitual melancholy, or in self-destruction

Remember the Sabbath Day speeds his guilty exit from a gloomy world. And the manual worker—the artizan, the

to Keep it Holy. engineer-fagging on from day to day, and In one of our large cities some years since, week to week, the

bright intuition of his eye there was a poor boy, an apprentice in an gets blunted, and, forgetful of their cun apothecary's shop. He was very poor, but ning, his fingers no longer perform their conscientious; and it was his solemn vow feats of twinkling agility, nor, by a plastic on leaving home that he would keep the and tuneful touch, mould dead matter, or Sabbath holy. As his finances were very wield mechanic power; but, mingling his slender, his master, one day, gave him a life’s blood in his daily drudgery, his locks recipe for making blacking, and lent him are prematurely grey, his genial humour money sufficient to get a few boxes made, sours, and, slaves it till he has become a with the assurance that he should have all

or reckless man, for any extra the profits. The boy got his blacking effort, or any blink of balmy feeling, he done, and placed it in the windows, but nomust stand indebted to opium or alcohol. body came to purchase till one Sabbath To an industrious population so essential is morning, when a gentleman came in and in the periodic rest, that when, in France, the great haste demanded a box of blacking. attempt was made to abolish the weekly The youth put out his hand to take it, and Sabbath, it was found necessary to issue a then .recollected it was the Sabbath day. decree suspending labour one day in every Very reluctantly his arm fell, and his ten. The Sabbath is God's special present tongue unwillingly informed the customer to the working man, and one chief object is that he could not sell it on the Sabbath. to prolong his life, and preserve efficient The boy, went to church; but even there his working tone. In the vital system it the lost bargain haunted him, till he told acts like a compensation-pond; it replem- the tempter he had done right, and would ishes the spirits, the elasticity, and vigour do so again. On opening the shop early on which the last six days have drained away, Monday morning a man came in, looked at and supplies the force which is to fill the the blacking, and at last purchased all the six days succeeding. And in the economy lad had. He then paid for the materials and of existence it answers the same purpose boxes, and found he had just a dollar left,as, in the economy of income, is answered probably the first dollar he ever called his by a savings bank. The frugal man who own! With more faith and fortitude than puts aside a pound to day, and another most possess, he takes this dollar, and in pound next month, and who in a quiet way a few minutes has paid it to the Bible is always putting past his stated pound from Society,- his first and only dollar,--feeling time to time, when he grows old and frail that he is safe who honours God with the gets not only the same pounds back again, first of his increase. From these prinbut a good many pounds besides. And ciples he has never varied; and he is now a the conscientious man, who husbands one prosperous and wealthy man. Was he day of existence every week-who, instead wise in honouring God's Sabbath and God's of allowing the Sabbath to be trampled word, when the temptation was strong to and torn in the hurry and scramble of life, do otherwise ?~TODD.

Droppings of the Sanctuary.

A MAN born once, dies twice, and he that Christ is an object exactly suited to the is born twice dies but once.--Townley. faculties and desires of the new creature.

Lowry. The human heart is like a well, the God adorns his people with robes of deeper you dig, the darker it gets.- grace on earth, and robes of glory in Clayton.

heaven.-Fletcher.

[blocks in formation]

It is a poor sermon that does not lead thanksgiving which was offered on earth, the sinner to Christ, and the believer to before man was formed. All their sounds live more on him.-Romaine.

are different, but all harmonious, and altoThe children of Israel were a striking gether compose a choir which we cannot picture of human nature; they had daily

imitate.- Wesley.

God can deliver us without miracles, if miracles, and yet were not converted. — Ibid.

not, we might look for them every week of

our lives; for sooner all nature shall change, A sting from the natural serpent killed than one of his promises fail.—Jay. the body; a sting from the spiritual serpent When all hope is fled, then God displays kills the soul. Looking to the brazen his glory on the dark ground of human serpent cures the body; looking to Jesus despair. None of God's people have a cures the soul.-Ibid.

right to complain; but as their sufferings Prayer is the peace of our spirit, the abound, so will their consolations abound. stillness of our thoughts, the evenness of

-Ibid. recollection, the seat of meditation, the rest A martyr who had been once released of our cares, and the calm of our tempest. from prison, when sent there a second time, It is the daughter of charity, and the sister addressed his wife, who was weeping at his of meekness.—Taylor.

departure, and said, “never mind, my dear,

for I found God here the first time.”. Every prayer we make is considered by

Ibid. God, and recorded in heaven; but cold

We see what a chequered scene, and prayers are not put into the account, in mixed state, the experience of believers order to effect an acceptation; but all laid have on this earth. Nature is all dark. aside like the buds of roses which the cold Glory is all bright. Grace is the medium wind hath nipped into death.Ibid.

of both.-Ibid. The music of birds was the first song of

Pulpit Anecdotes.

Luther.

latter part of one of his sermons at EdinWhen Dr. Erasmus Albert was called to burgh. “ He is, Sir,” said Hume, “ the Brandenburg, he desired Luther to set him most ingenious preacher I ever heard. It down a manner and form how he should is worth while to go twenty miles to hear preach before the Prince Elector. Luther him.” He then repeated a passage towards replied, “Let your preaching be in the the close of that discourse which he heard. most simple and plain manner; look not to

“ After a solemn pause he thus addressed the Prince, but to the plain, simple, and his numerous audience:— The attendant unlearned people, of which cloth the Prince angel is just about to leave the threshold, himself is also made. If I, in my preach- and ascend to heaven; and shall he ascend, ing, should have regard to Philip Melanc- and not bear with him the news of one thon, and other learned doctors, then should sinner, among all this multitude, reclaimed I work but little good. I preach in the from the error of his ways?' simplest sort to the unskilful, and the same

“ To give the greater effect to this exgiveth content to all. Hebrew, Greek, and clamation, he stamped his foot, lifted up his Latin, I spare until we learned men come hands and eyes to heaven, and with gushing together, and then we make it so curled tears, cried aloud, “Stop, Gabriel! Stop and finical, that God himself wondereth Gabriel! Stop ere you enter the sacred. at us."

portals, and yet carry with you the news Mr. Hume.

of one sinner converted to God.' He then, An intimate friend of the infidel Hume, in the most simple, but energetic language, asked hin what he thought of Mr. Whit- described what he called a Saviour's dying field's preaching, for he had listened to the love to sinful man; so that almost the whole

« PreviousContinue »