Abbildungen der Seite

world is intended to be “the shrine of Deity," « the habitation of God throngh the Spirit.” But there is something in the structure of man which seems to say plainly, “ You were intended to be the temple of God!” Alas! Satan has usurped the seat of God; sin reigns in the dwelling place of holiness, and as the fruit of this, much of the beauty is gone. And we see bad and vile passions oft depicted in the “form and fashion" of the countenance. Anger and hatred put in their lineaments, vile lust paints some of the features, a sour selfishness reflects itself, and sometimes a dark despondency overshadows the face of man. The dominion of unholy feeling, and the practice of sensual habits embrute and demonize the human face, so that “the show of their countenance doth witness against them." But when the soul comes fully under the dominion of God's sanctifying grace, much of the original beauty is retrieved, and an habitual course of devotion and piety is oft seen to give to “the outer man” a heavenly stamp, the mark of the Lamb in the forehead. Moses brought down with him from his long communion with God on Sinai a face that shone with glory. And the council as they looked stedfastly on Stephen “saw his face as it had been the face of an avgel"--a face in which beamed forth angelic sweetness and dignity, the result perhaps of a special baptism of heavenly fire which at that moment came upon

him. Nor can we think of the change through which Saul of Tarsus passed during the three days of his spiritual birth, without supposing that it left its record on the face of the Cilician Israelite. It is not too much to think that the fiery gleam of his dark eye and the hauteur of the young persecutor's countedance were among the “old things," all of which “passed away." And that when he became numbered with the “elect of God, holy and beloved, and put on bowels of mercies, kindness and long-suffering," there came up also over his noble countenance a softened expression.

Noue who will be able to recall the form of our beloved young friend, but wiil remember that there was in him much that was lovely to the eye. There was a "goodliness" in the flower, a “grace" in " the fashion of it." That the oveof Christ had much to do with this I have no doubt. He was early converted to God, and being in possession of deep and sincere piety, the inward life of God gave beauty to the flower which has, alas, now faded away before our eyes. If he had contracted and pursucd evil habits, like many other young men, the beauty of the flower would have been marred. We should not have seen that habitual cheerfulness which reigued around and lighted up the features of our young friend, for it sprang from the peace of God. We should have missed that well known openness and benevolence of expression ; for it was produced by the truth and grace" which were in him. We should have Jooked in vain for that purity which beamed forth in him, for that was the result of sanctifying love. The beauty of this faded flower was the "beauty of holiness." But if the flower was beautiful here, how much more so now ! If our vision could follow him into that crowd of beauteous forms which encircle the throne of God, and distinguish him there, surely we should find, that bis change has greatly heightened his loveliness. It is impossible for us to understand the mighty effect produced upon the spirit by the vision of God our Saviour in his glorified form. The contemplation of Jesus through a glass darkly, is transforming; how much more, when with unveiled vision we gaze on "the king in his beauty!"

Our brother has passed away from us ; gone from the holy into the holiest ; has " departed to be with Christ;" and how much more like Christ is he now become ? « We shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is !" But are the Baints with Christ as soon as the breath passes away from their nostrils? Some have felt a difficulty in connection with this matter, not being able to understand how a spirit can exist apart from a material form ; and with a view to escape this difficulty, it has been supposed that the disembodied spirit will be invested with some light material vehicle, called (as this notion supposes), by the apostle, “ our house which is from heaven."

It is not necessary that we should be prepared to solve all the mysteries of such a subject. It is far more important and appropriate to us to inquire whether the Scriptures teach the existence of the soul in the separate state.

1. Then look at the representation which our Lord gives of the matter in the case of the rich man and Lazarus. “The beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom.” What was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom The soul, undoubtedly, and not the body. So again in the opposite case-" The rich man also died, and was buried; and in hell he lifted up his eyes being in torments.” The body found & resting place in some ornamented sepulchre, but the soul was cast into the abyss of woe, che' deep grave of those who are separated to endless death. Here it is evident that the soul lived, and was conscious of joy in the one case, and of torment in the other, immediately after death. We draw this inference from this portion of our Lord's teaching irrespective of any interpretation evidently adopted for the sake of theory.

2. Again, our Lord's reply to the prayer of the penitent-thief on the cross agrees with the foregoing view. “Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.” “ To day," ere thy crucified body is taken down from the cross, soon as the mortal struggle is over, “thou shalt be with me, (whom in thy last hour thou hast confessed before men,) in paradise," I shall be there to receive thee. “ Paradise" is thought of by some under the notion of heaven's ante-chamber. But if there be any accuracy in this view, it is an ante-chamber not because the site or locality is somewhere short of the Divine presence ; but rather on the ground of the incomplete and expectant condition of the saints between their departure and the sound of the “trump of God.” “Waiting,(as in an ante-chamber,) “ for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of the body," until which event the glory and the bliss of “the heirs of God" will not be full.

3. With this agrees apostolic teaching.“ Therefore,” says St. Paul, “ we are always confident, knowing that whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord—(for we walk by faith and not by sight)--we are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.” If the apostle's view is correct, the sanctified soul dwelling in the body is absent from the Lord. But ceasing to dwell in the body it is at once placed in the presence of our Lord; and hence elsewhere he expresses “A desire to depart and to be with Christ, which is far better." To depart and to be with Christ being inseparable, the one leading at once and invariably to the other.

From the foregoing considerations we joyfully iufer that holy souls enter at once into a conscious and happy existence upon the dissolution of the frame. And is it not in accordance with this truth, we read of “the spirits of just men made perfect,” spirits as yet without the body. Whatever difficulty therefore may appear to us in conceiving a spirit's existence apart from a


material vehicle ; it is clearly revealed to us that souls, whether holy or un. holy, cease not to exist between death and the resurrection morn. Let us therefore feel assured that our young brother, who has lately left us, is now in the enjoyment of a conscious and blissful existence. That which formed the seat of intelligence and holiness in him still endures. It was not the wasted frame which he left behind him that thought and elt, adored and worshipped, trusted and loved Christ, but something spiritual, and that something was the living and loving soul which still lives, and shall live for ever. And if we divested of the Aeshly veil could but "see him as he is,” we should find the spirit of this just young man made perfect, beautiful, and radiant, reflecting the image of the Son of God. And as it respects its old frail companion which it has left behind, the “ vile body," it also shall rest in hope, and although it shall "see corruption," yet "this corruptible shall put on incorruption." O what a glorious change shall pass upon the dissolved frame when glorious and beautiful, like the present form of Him who loved us, it shall rise from its quiet resting-place. For “the Lord himself shall descend from heaven, with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trump of God, and the dead in Christ shall rise first."

And every form, and every face,

Be heavenly and divine." And henceforth the flower shall have more even than its primeval beauty and splendour.

II. But though beautiful,“ the flower" is frail. And this is one of the chief reasons why it stands as the emblem of feeble man. The withering grass, the fragile flower, the frailest of all the vegetable productions of the earth are the pictures of our perishable nature. It is not the tree of expansive girt, which bears up under the repeated strokes of the axe, not the sturdy oak which braves the rude storm of centuries, but the flower, slender and easily injured, which trembles even in the breeze, is prostrated by the storm, and may be crushed by the foot of the heedless passenger. Various are the means by which the life of the flower may be destroyed ; sometimes it is cut down and withereth ;” at other times it is nipt by the cold blast and perishes ; or it is seen to decay, and to reach its destruction by a gradual process, because a worm at the root is extracting its life. The flower is easily injured, a very slight thing may prove fatal to its existence ; such also is man ; what trivial causes have often operated to the destruction of health and life. What innumerable means may remove man from the face of the earth. You cannot read a newspaper but you are impressed with the truth that

"Dangers stand thick through all the ground

To push us to the tomb,
And fierce diseases wait around,

To hurry mortals home.” Accidents, diseases, and fatal complaints without number, and without name, may cut down or blast the frail flower. We are in danger from the wind that blows, the rain that descends, the cold and heat that alternately prevail, and invisible poisons that float in the air—" For what is your life! It is even a vapour which appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away ;'' something very unsubstantial-the burning heat may consume it, the passing breeze disperse it. “ Surely every man at his best estate is altogether vanity !" While all are frail, some are peculiarly so; it is their lot to inherit a feeble and delicate frame, predisposed to disease. This most likely was the case with our lamented friend. He was a lovely, but frail flower ; and the dreaded consumption, by the permission of God, fixed its fangs in the frail frame, and though assailed by medical skill and effort, never relinquished its hold until "the precious life” was destroyed. “Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils. For wherein is he to be accounted of ?”

III. The flower is short lived. All flowers are not of equal duration; some perish speedily, but none of them last long ; they come forth, and for a season they please us with their gay appearance ; but by and by we see signs of decay. The flower is fading, and soon the place thereof knows it no more. Thus it is with human beings. Some perish in the very bud of their existence, they scarcely peep forth above the soil ere they are swept away ; others live to develope their physical and mental properties more fully, and like the full blown flower are cut down in their prime; and some (though their pumber is comparatively small), live through the usual stages of human life, until a gradual decay of nature brings them to the dust of death. Yet man, at best, like the flower of the field is short lived. His stay on earth at the very longest is but brief. There is a mournful pathos in the teaching of the inspired word on this subject that softens and subdues—“Man that is born of a woman is of few days and full of trouble. He cometh forth as a flower and is cut down. He feeth also as a shadow, and continueth not.” Jacob's estimate of his one hundred and thirty years pilgrimage on earth is solemnly affecting—“ Few and evil have the days of the years of my life been.” Few in looking back upon them, and few in looking forward to the unending days of that eternity on the brink of which he stood a bending figure. The words of the Psalmist are so humbling, that the lofty looks of man are at once brought down in their presence, and the pride of the heart perishes under their influence—“Thou hast made my days as an handbreadth, and mine age is as nothing before thee.” Before thee, who “art from everlasting to everlasting.” It is in comparison with eternity, with infinite duration, that our life on earth shrinks away into an almost inappreciable point. O what is life, our brief life on earth, in comparison with everlasting existence? How short a period must it appear when looked back upon from the eternal world. How small must “the span of life" appear to our brother now, compared with that unending eternity on which he has entered. Well might the apostle regard it as of momentary duration. For truly it is no more in contrast with eternity; it is the lightning flash, we are born, we live, we die, and how quickly do these important facts follow each other in our history. And yet bow vastly important is this brief period ; inasmuch, as during it alone can we acquire a meetness for eternal glory. Our conduct in time determines our condition for eternity. During our life's short day we acquire a character which will cleave to us for ever, and will form to us a source of endless bliss or woe. If, while here we walk “in the error of our way," it will soon conduct us into a dark and distressed eternity ; but, if while here we “ follow holiness," how speedily shall we "enter into the joy of our Lord.” O, sinner, think there is but a step between you and your doom! Life is soon gone ; and if death find you unprepared, you sink into remediless woe. Is it not most awful to think that you are living so near the world of woe and with so little concern to escape it! O sinner, and man of the world ! it cannot be worth your while to cleave to so perisbing a portion; how to set your affections on things which are upon the earth, and not on things above ; to seek your portion in this life, and not in the life beyond. For as you brought nothing with you into the world, it is cer tain you can carry nothing out; nothing but your sin or holiness to draw down upon you the dark frown of Jehovah, or to encircle you with the light of his favour. And how speedily inust you go out of this world which you so ardently love and worship_" For the hour of your departure is at hand !** O sinneri consider that the sin you cherish in opposition to God's will you cannot long hold. Life is only a moment. It is as short for you as for the Christian. O how 'insane to indulge in sin; to “neglect the great salvation;" to exclude yourself from eternal blessedness for the sake of mo. mentary gratification! Away, O away with the right hand, or the right eye, or the right foot, and fly for refuge to lay hold on the hope set before

ere the inaster of the house hath arisen and shtet too the door."

yoù, “

"A point of time, a moment's space,

Removes you to yon glorious place,
Or shuts you up in hell!”

O weeping, foot-sore and heart-soro Christian, wipe away your tears. It is not worth while to weep with eternal joy so near to you. It is not worth while to repine at the toils of a journey so short, so near its close. Look up ! see! you are already “come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God.” You are already at the foot of the mount. Our brother is gone up to its summit, and it will soon be yours to ascend. “Rejoice, and be exceeding glad, for great is your reward in heaven," and you are almost come within reach of it. Labour on, pray on, hold on, and soon will you find yourself enshrined in the glory of your Lord.

IV. There is fragrance in flowers, and much more in some than in others. The scent is also sweet in some, in others it is sickly and offensive. Let this remind us of that moral influence which all men exert more or less upon others. We carry with us in all our movements in human society an inAuence which, like the fragrance of the flower, always surrounds us. This is less in some than in others. Station, talents, wealth, and force of character may give to some greater influence than others either for good or evil. Yet all alike have a measure of influence ; every human flower scents to some extent the social atmosphere. In some the influence is sweet, reviving, and hallowing; in others it is poisonous and soul.destroying ; some carry God with them, and they diffuse a divine influence withersoever they go ; others, alas! carry Satan with them and in them, and by their foul and foolish talk, and “their pernicious ways," they corrupt and destroy. Our iuftuence while under the power of "the carpal mind” is for evil, we live to alienate men from God. Until possessed of decisive piety, we gather not to Christ, but scatter abrvad, keep souls away from the refuge and the rest of guilty man. But when the flower becomes well baptized and penetrated with the dews of the Spirit--when the breath of the Lord passes through and purifies it, then its poisonous properties are destroyed, and it ceases to send forth its deadly exhalations. Then “if we live we live unto the Lord, and if we die we die unto the Lord, living or dying we are the Lord's."

It was the happiness of our young friend to have been “born of God" at rather an early period of life, and this blessed change prepared him to exert a good influence upon those with whom he was associated. When "Christ” be. came "formed in him," the flower sent forth a gracious fragrance. It was felt

[blocks in formation]
« ZurückWeiter »