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both perfect in its extent, and fervent in its spirit. On this fear of death is raised the best and surest preparation for our last passage. The more we feel it, the more we realise in truth the change that is before us. Above all things, then, let us avoid false comforts, which excite the heart, and make the pulses beat for a while with a fictitious hope. Let us avoid all high feelings, and attempts to persuade ourselves that we are what we are not; that God is not what He is; and that the first meeting of a sinner with Him can be any thing but awful. If there is one thing more essential than any other to deep repentance, true peace, and to a holy death, it is perfect truth, perfect reality in these first perceptions. They are surely gifts of God, issuing out of the dictates and discernment of our spiritual consciousness. us thoroughly receive them into our heart; and though they brood in darkness, from the sixth hour unto the ninth, over the whole face of our soul, we may be sure, without a wavering of doubt, that in His good time we shall, through the darkness, see the Cross, and upon it the Son of God, pierced for us, our spotless sacrifice, our perfect atonement with the Father.
THE BLESSEDNESS OF DEATH.
PHILIPPIANS i. 23.
"I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart and to be with Christ, which is far better."
LET us never forget whose words these were, and what he was who spoke them. They are the words of a saint and an apostle, at the end of a long life of love and patience for Christ's sake. After he had suffered the loss of all things,—name, honour, reputation, friends, rest, and home,-and for thirty years had borne stonings and the scourge, shipwreck and the daily peril of death, he could well say, "I have a desire to depart." With a great sum obtained he this freedom. It is well to remember this, that we be not either cast down at our conscious inability to speak as he did, or, what would be much worse, tempted to use such words
too soon. For us humbler thoughts are more in keeping. Nevertheless, the same desire which was so ardent in him may be kindled in our hearts. If we cannot burn with love, the flax may at least smoke. In our shallow capacity, and at a distance not to be measured, we may desire with fear what he yearned for with such unclouded longings. His desire is, at least, to us an example of what ours ought to be; and as such we may set it before us as a pattern.
With this view, then, let us consider what are the reasons for this desire. They must needs be quick and powerful, not only to cast out the fear of death, but to change it into aspiration. And in so doing, we will take, not the special reasons peculiar to martyrs and apostles, but such as are universal, and within the spiritual reach of all who are born again through Christ.
Why, then, should departure out of this life be an object of desire to a Christian?
1. First, because it is a full release from this evil world. There is something very expressive in the word we here render by depart.' It means the being set free, after the breaking up of some long restraint; or the unyoking of the oxen wearied with the plough; or the weighing again of our anchors for a homeward voyage. On every side its associations are full of peace and rest. What can
better express the passage of Christ's servants from this tumultuous and weary world? The longer we dwell in it, the more cause we must see to shrink from its temptations. I speak not only of sickness and pain, of crosses and hardship, bereavements and afflictions, and the bitterness of adversity; these are sensible evils, which all men desire to be rid of. Sometimes they even revile their tardy life, because they are impatient of the rod. To be free from all trial would be indeed blessed. But these are not the things which make true Christians desire to depart. They look on them as part of their Master's Cross, and count themselves happy to bear so much as its shadow. Their true affliction is the presence of sin; its fiery assaults without, its alluring subtilty within.
Is it not wonderful that men who immoderately fear death, should have no fears of life? To die, is in the last degree alarming to many; but to live, is as free from alarm as if it were impossible to fall from God. This shews us how little we realise the world in which we are, and the sin which dwells in our hearts. Is it possible that we can be so blind to the snares which are on every side? Are the nets of the fowler so frail that we have no fear of them, or so fine that we cannot see where they lie? Is it not certain that no man can promise to himself the gift of perseverance; and that
all his life long, the enmity of the world, the flesh, and the devil, "the blast of the terrible ones, is Do we not console
over the early death
as a storm against the wall ?" fathers and mothers who weep of children, by telling them that their young spirits are sainted, and that God has, in mercy, come between them and the defilements of this naughty world? We bid them remember, that in a few short years those they mourn might have lost their baptismal innocence, and sullied their fresh purity of heart. We bid them be consoled because now they know that their loved ones are safe, following "the Lamb whithersoever He goeth;" and God alone could foresee what might have been the career and end of a longer life. And what does all this mean but that this is a perilous world and full of evil? Who, then, shall dare not to fear it? Who can say into what he may fall, or how he may be led astray; how he may fall into the snare of the enemy, or under the illusions of his own mind? what declensions, what spiritual deteriorations may wither us from the very root? Indeed, we shall not be safe if we leave off to fear any peril to the salvation of the soul. So long as we are in this warfare, we must be open to the shafts of evil; and who would not desire a shelter where no arrows can reach us any more? What must be the peace of
1 Isaiah xxv. 4.