« PreviousContinue »
appears only with an amiable look, and leaves behind nothing of such a person but a fair, unblemished, alluring, and instructive example, which they that observed them might, with less prejudiced minds, compare with the useless, vicious lives of many that they see to have filled up a room in the world unto extreme old age, either to no purpose, or to very bad. And how vast is the difference in respect of usefulness to the world between a pious young gentleman, dying in his youth, that lived long in a little time, untainted by youthful lusts and vanities, and victorious over them, and an accursed sinner of an hundred years old (Isa. lxv. 20). How sweet and fragrant a memory, doth the one, how rotten and offensive a name, doth the other, leave behind him to survivors !
Therefore such very valuable young persons as are taken hence in the flower of their age, are not to be thought, upon that account of usefulness to this world, to have lived in it that shorter time in vain. They leave behind them that testimony which will turn to account, both for the glory of God's grace, which He hath exemplified in them, and which may be improved to the good of many who shall have seen that an holy life, amidst the temptations that the youthful age is exposed to, is no impracticable thing, and that an early death is as possible also to themselves.
Following Jesus in the Dark.
Do not regret or dread to pass out of the one world into the other at His call, and under His conduct, though through the dark passage of death, remembering the keys are in so great and so kind a hand, and that His good pleasure herein is no more to be distrusted than to be disputed or withstood. Let it be enough to you, that what you cannot see yourself, He sees for you.
You have oft desired your ways, your motions, your removal from place to place, might be directed by Him
DELIGHTFUL CERTAINTY OF DYING.
in the world. Have you never said, If Thou go not with me, carry me not hence? How safely and fearlessly may you fol. low Him blindfold or in the dark any whither, not only from place to place in this world, but from world to world! How lightsome soever the one, and gloomy and dark the other, may seem to you, “darkness and light are to Him alike." To Him Hades is no Hades, nor is the dark way that leads into it to Him an untrodden path. Shrink not at the thoughts of this translation, though it be not by escaping death, but even through the jaws of it.
The Delightful Certainty of Bying.
This was an happy accord, the willingness of this departing soul, proceeding not from stupidity, but trust in Him who kept these keys, and such preparedness for removal as the gospel required. O happy souls! that finding the key is turning, and opening the door for them, are willing to go forth upon such terms, as knowing whom they have believed, and that neither principalities, nor powers, life, nor death, can ever separate them from the love of God in Christ Jesus their Lord. Life, they find, hath not separated—whereof was the greater danger; and death is so far from making this separation, that it shall complete their union with the blessed God in Christ, and lay them infolded in the everlasting embraces of Divine love! Happy they! that can hereupon welcome death, and say, Now, Lord, lettest thou Thy servant depart in peace! that, before, only desired leave to die, and have now obtained it; that are, with certainty of the issue, at the point of becoming complete victors over the last enemy, and are ready to enter upon their triumph, and take up their triumphal song, "Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? Thanks be to God, who giveth us the victory through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Happy soul ! here will be a speedy end of all thy griefs and sorrows; they will be presently swallowed up in an absolute plenitude and fulness of joy. There is already an end put to thy tormenting cares and fears, for what object can remain to thee of a rational fear, when once upon grounds, such as shake not under thee, thou art reconciled to death?
Oh! the transports of joy that do now most rationally result from this state of the case, when there is nothing left, lying between the dislodging soul and the glorious unseen world, but only the dark passage of death; and that so little formidable, considering who hath the keys of the one, and the other. How reasonable is it, upon the account of somewhat common herein to the Redeemer and the redeemed (although everything be not), to take up the following words, that so plainly belong to this very case: “Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth; my flesh also shall rest in hope: for thou wilt not leave my soul in sheol or hades”-thou wilt not forsake or abandon it in that wide world—“neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. Thou wilt shew me the path of life; the path that leads unto that presence of thine, where is fulness of joy, and to those pleasures which are at thy right hand, or in thy power, and which are for evermore, and shall never admit either of end or diininution” (Psalm xvi. 9-11).
Now, what do we mean to let our souls hang in doubt? why do we not drive things for them to an issue, and put them into those same safe hands that hold these keys; absolutely resign, devote, entrust, and subject them to Him, get them bound up in the bundle of life, so adjoin and unite them to Him (not doubting but as we give them up, He will, and doth, in that instant, take hold of them and receive them into union with Himself) as that we may assure our hearts, that because He lives, we shall live also? Thus the ground of our hope becomes sure, and of that joy which springs from such an hope.
NO DANGER OF AN EARTHLY IMMORTALITY.
Our life, we may now say, is hid with Christ in God, even though we are in ourselves dead or dying creatures (Col. iii. 3). Yea, Christ is our life, and when He, who is our life, shall appear, we shall appear with Him in glory. He hath assured us, that because He is the resurrection and the life, he that believeth in Him, though he were dead, shall yet live; and that whosoever lives, and believes in Him, hath thereby a life already begun in Him, in respect whereof he shall never die (John xi. 25, 26). What now can be surer than this? So far we are at a certainty, upon the included supposition, i.e., that we believe in Him.
And what now remains to be ascertained ? What? Only our own intervening death. We must, it is true, be absent from these bodies, or we cannot, as we would, be present with the Lord. And is that all? Can anything now be more certain than that? O happy state of our case! How should our hearts spring and leap for joy, that our affairs are brought into this posture ! that in order to our perfect blessedness, nothing is further wanting but to die ! and that the certainty of death completes our assurance of it! What should now hinder our breaking forth into the most joyful thanksgivings, that it is so little doubtful we shall dic ! that we are in no danger of a terrestrial immortality! and that the only thing that it remained we should be assured of, is so very sure ! that we are sure it is not in the power of all this world to keep us always in it! that the most spiteful enemy we have in all the world cannot do us that spite-to keep us from dying! How gloriously may good men triumph over the impotent malice of their most mischievous enemies, viz., that the greatest mischief, even in their own account, that it can ever be in their power to do them, is to put it out of their own power ever to hurt them more, for they now go quite out of their reach! They can, being permitted, kill the body, and after that (Luke xii. 4) have no more that they can do. What a remarkable, signifi
cant “after that” is this! What a defiance doth it import of the utmost effort of human power and spite, that here it terminates ; it is now come to its ne plus ultra !
A Plurality of WWorlds.
(Fontenelle published his famous essay in 1686, and this discourse of Howe appeared in 1699. Whether the English divine was acquainted with the speculations of the French philosopher we do not know ; but to those of our readers who have perused the recent discussions of Whewell, Brewster, and other distinguished astronomers, it will be interesting to find the germ of so many arguments in the page of one who derived his science from Boyle, and his religious convictions from the Bible.]
Let us further consider the inexpressible numerousness of the other world's inhabitants, with the excellencies wherein they shine, and the orders they are ranked into, and how unlikely is it that holy souls that go thither should want employment. Great concourse and multitudes of people make places of business in this world, and must much more do so where creatures of the most spiritual and active natures must be supposed to have their residence. Scripture speaks of "myriads" (which we read an innumerable company”) of angels, besides all “ the spirits of just men” (Heb. xii.), who are sometimes said to be more than any one could number (Rev. vii.) And when we are told of many heavens, above all which our Lord Jesus is said to have ascended ; are all those heavens only empty solitudes—uninhabited glorious deserts ? When we find how full of vitality this base earth of ours is, how replenished with living creatures, not only on the surface, but within it; how unreasonable is it to suppose the nobler parts of the universe to be less peopled with inhabitants of proportionable spiritu