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our perfection. Let this, then, be one counsel: to live habitually in that state in which, if we should depart, we should pass from a lower to a higher condition of the same spiritual order; from faith to sight; from the first faint tastes of uncreated peace, to the overflow of the eternal fountain.
2. And the other counsel is, that we often rehearse in life the last preparation we should make in death. We know not whether we shall have time for the last dressing of our soul, when God calls us to His presence. A sudden death may cut us away in an hour; a wandering mind, or the distractions of pain, or the weight and burden of our mere mortality, may take our last hours or days out of our control. It is good, therefore, in times of health to try to realise our last passage; to see ourselves upon our bed of death; and to surround ourselves with all the probable images and sights of our last hour; with the objects and the words, even with the very looks which may be fixed upon us then. Joseph made his sepulchre in his garden, in the midst of his most familiar scenes. And he had his reward; for that tomb became a pledge of his election. It will be good for us to set apart some day, as the day of the departure of a sainted friend, or the day of our own birth by nature or by baptism, and to spend it as if it were our last, praying God to forgive our stains of soul and body, the sins of
all our thoughts and of all our senses.
to approach the holy Sacrament at some certain season, as if we were receiving it upon our bed of death. This will make death a benign and familiar thought. And it may be that God, in His tender mercy, will accept these our timely preparations as if they were our last; and draw over our whole life the spirit of a holy fear, and of a continual readiness to die. Alas! it is no good sign that Christians should so fear to see His face. If heaven be the presence of our Lord, and if death be the passage to His throne, our fears betray how little we know of heavenly blessedness, and how little capacity we have for the fruition of its peace. Let us, then, try, day by day, so to live, that if we were to die, we should but pass out of the conflict and clouds of this earthly trial, into the fulfilment of our most kindled and ardent longings. And, further, let us each one seek, not by high imaginations or by excited emotions, but by deepening in ourselves, and praying God to increase in us ever more and more, both zeal and sorrow, the grace to live the life and to die the death of a perfect and fervent penitent.
THE DEATH OF CHRIST OUR ONLY STAY.
ST. JOHN Xv. 13.
"Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends."
If the thought of sin, death, and judgment, be so terrible, as in truth they are to every soul of man, on what shall we stay ourselves when our time is at hand? Not upon the smallness nor the fewness of our sins, for our whole life is full of stains; nor upon the multitude or the greatness of our good deeds, God knoweth; for where shall they be found? When we come, as it were, into the range and presence of death, our whole consciousness is penetrated with a sense of sin. We see not only the evil we have done, but the good we have left undone. And the good, if so be, that we have striven to do, we seem to see for the first time revealed by some strange and searching light, in which all looks blemished, marred, and sullied.
The holiest soul will, perhaps, be the most overwhelmed, for a time, by this vision of humiliation; so sure is it, that they who do most works of holiness, trust least in them. They cannot but feel, that there is not an hour nor an act of their life in which, if they have not crossed the end of their creation, they have, at least, fallen short of fulfilling it.
On what, then, shall we stay ourselves in the day when the fear of death falls upon us?
1. First, upon the love of God, in giving His Son to die for us. "God so loved the world;"that is, so almightily, so divinely, with the infinite love of the eternal Godhead;-" that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life."1 "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins."2 "God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." This is our first foundation, that God loves the world; that He looks upon the works of His hands with an eternal and stedfast love, with a tender, yearning compassion. Whatever be doubtful, this is sure. Light does not pour forth from the sun with a fuller and directer ray, than does perfect and eternal love overflow from 3 Rom. v. 8.
1 St. John iii. 16. 21 St. John iv. 10.
the bosom of God upon all the works that He has made. The mere fact of creation is a proof of love. "He hateth nothing that He hath made." All being is His work, the subject of His power, the object of His love. The force of this truth is boundless. It is true that God hates sin, and, therefore, whatever in us is sinful; for, so far, we have unmade ourselves; we have undone His work; uncreated, so to speak, His creation; so far, we are not His creatures; so far, we are under the shadow of His wrath. But, as the work of His hands, we are objects of a changeless and eternal love. This is a wonderful mystery; a contradiction to the guilty consciousness of sinners. In them the sinner has absorbed, as it were, the creature of God; and all they feel is fear, and a sense of His just aversion. But the everlasting truth still stands fast, that God loves us. It is specially declared by our Lord, that "God so loved the world," fallen as it is in sin, as to give His Son for it. St. John says, that He loved us, though we loved Him not: St. Paul, that while enemies He loved us. All this shews that the love of God is the sphere in which the world is sustained; and that every living soul is encompassed by that love, as stars by the firmament of heaven.
And from this blessed truth flows all manner of consolation. Not only does God hate sin, but He