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venting grace. Even after our new birth, we are still, for the most part, in a slumber; especially such as either fall into sin, or live without active habits of devotion. We are as unconscious of the great realities of God's kingdom and our own sinfulness, as if we were asleep; and sleeping men cannot wake themselves. What but God drew us out of this insensibility? What first made our hearts to thrill and tremble, to fear and yearn, to feel about, groping at noon as in darkness? What but the Spirit of God? So it has been to this day. Let us, then, pray Him to shew us to ourselves, especially when He is contending with us in sorrow, sickness, crosses, or disappointments. All these are tokens that He is come to carry on His work of love; that He has not left us, nor given us over: that there is still " hope in the end:" though now it be neither dark nor light, yet "in the evening time it shall be light." Let us, then, pray for the illumination of His Spirit; not fearing to see ourselves as we are, though they who have asked and obtained this prayer have prayed in haste, that they may be hid from themselves again. When we pray for this sight of fear, let us also pray that He will, at the same time, reveal unto us the Lamb of God, lest we be overwhelmed. It is a blessed thought, that if we sincerely desire to know our
selves, we may leave all to Him. He will reveal it in such measures and ways as for us is best. All our life through, we shall be seeing some reality of our spiritual state more clearly, more broadly, more deeply; and as we see the worst of ourselves, we shall see most of His love. These things go together, and revealing, temper each other to our infirmity; so that all through life, as we draw nearer to Him, we shall more abase ourselves. Ever more and more shall we behold this twofold vision of our shame and of His sanctity, till we shall be without sin before the throne, and in His light see ourselves without spot or blemish in the kingdom of God and of the Lamb.
PREPARATION FOR DEATH A STATE OF LIFE.
ISAIAH XXXviii. 1.
Thus saith the Lord, Set thine house in order: for thou shalt die, and not live."
PERHAPS the most awful moment of our lives is when we first feel in danger of death. All our past life then seems to be a cloud of words and shadows; one less real than another, moving and floating round about us, altogether external to the realities of the soul. Not only childhood and youth, happiness and sorrow, eager hopes and disturbing fears, but even our communion with God, our faith in things unseen, our self-knowledge, and our repentance, seem alike to be but visions of the memory. All has become stern, hard, and appalling. The thought of passing out of this kindly and familiar state, from loving faces, partial friends, soothing offices of religion, hopeful persuasions of
our own peace at last, to go into the world beyond the grave, among souls departed, and the spirits who stand before the presence of our Judge; all things now wound up, all sins weighed and doomed :—this is full of unutterable fear. Such is the burst of consciousness which breaks upon the soul, when any great event in life says to us, "Set thine house in order." It is as if it were the beginning of a new existence; as if we had passed under a colder sky, and into a world where every object has a sharpness of outline almost too severe for sight to bear. Such was the effect of the prophet's words upon Hezekiah. Even he, a saint of God, was overwhelmed. He "turned his face toward the wall," and " wept sore." He said, "He will cut me off with pining sickness: from day even to night wilt Thou make an end of me. I reckoned till morning, that, as a lion, so will He break all my bones from day even to night wilt Thou make an end of me. Like a crane or a swallow, so did I chatter: I did mourn as a dove mine eyes fail with looking upward: O Lord, I am oppressed; undertake for me. What shall I say? He hath spoken unto me."
If this was the effect upon so great a servant of God, what must be the first breaking and the first realisation of approaching death to us? The first
1 Isaiah xxxviii. 2, 3, 12-15.
feeling which would overwhelm any of us would be fear fear, that is, of the sight of God, and of the just judgment upon our sins. It is, indeed, true, that to believe in God's mercy through Christ is a chief act of faith; and that to refuse to trust in Him is a sign either of consent in a temptation to despair, or want of the virtue of faith. It is, moreover, a dishonour to the perfect tenderness of our Lord, not to go to Him with a full trust in His supernatural mercy. All this is most true; and yet they who have realised the thought of death as probable or near, tell us, that with this perfect conviction of faith, there is also a deep emotion of fear, which arises out of a consciousness of what we have been, and what we still are, in the sight of Him whose "eyes are as a flame of fire." And although it is also true, that "perfect love casteth out fear," and that it is the very of faith to extinguish this feeling of alarm which is akin to mistrust; yet, after all, it is absolutely certain that such a feeling does exist, paradoxically, in the soul even of men of great faith and love. With all their perception of the Divine mercy in Christ, they still feel within, the consciousness of great sins and insufficient repentance. Who can judicially pronounce his own repentance sufficient? and who without a sufficient repentance can be free from fear of dying? We talk very