Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

a time, at least, the loss seems irrepa- | ing stuff; for grace, which removes the rable; so that, though the wounded heart of stone, and substitutes that of sensibilities may afterwards be healed, flesh, will refine, rather than extinguish, and even turn to the living as they human sensibilities. But what words turned to the dead, yet, whilst the cala- does he hear from lips, whence nothing mity is fresh, we repulse, as injurious, but lamentation might have been exthe thought that the void in our affec- pected to issue ? " The Lord gave, and tions can ever be filled, and are persuad- the Lord hath taken away, blessed be ed that the blank in the domestic group the name of the Lord.” The mother can be occupied by nothing but the will rise up from the side of her pale hallowed menory of the buried. It is still child; and though on the cheek therefore night in the household, dark- of that child (alas, never again to be ness, a darkness that may be felt. And warm with affection) there are tears philosophy comes in, with its well. which show how a parent's grief has meant but idle endeavors to console overflowed, she will break into the exthose who sit in this darkness. It can clamation of the Psalmist," I will sing speak of the unavoidableness of death, of mercy and judgment, unto thee, O of the duty of bearing with manly for: Lord, will I sing.' And when, a few titude what cannot be escaped, of the days after, the slow windings of the fuinjuriousness of excessive grief; and it neral procession are seen, and the mimay even hazard a conjecture of re- nister advances to meet the train, and union in some world beyond the grave. pours forth the rich and inspiriting And pleasure approaches with its al words, "I am the Resurrection and the lurements and fascinations, offering to Life, he that believeth in me, though cheat the mind into forgetfulness, and he were dead, yet shall he live "—is it wile the heart from its sadness. But only the low murmur of suppressed neither philosophy nor pleasure can anguish by which he is answered ? avail any thing in the chamber of death; can he not feel that there are those in the taper of the one is too faint for so the group whose hearts bound at the oppressive a gloom, and the torch of magnificent announcement ? and, as he the other burns sickly in so unwonted looks at the mourners, does he not gaan atmosphere. Is then the darkness ther, from the uplifted eye and the such that those whom it envelopes are moving lip, that there is one at least incapable of being comforted ? Oh, not who is triumphing in the fulfilment 80. There may be those amongst your- of the prediction, O death, I will be selves who can testify, that, even in a thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy night so dreary and desolate, there is destruction?" a source whence consolation may be And what are we to say to these drawn. The promises of Scripture things? what but that, in the deepest are never more strikingly fulfilled than moral darkness, there can be music, when death has made an inroad, and music which sounds softer and sweeter taken away, at a stroke, some object than by day; and that, when the inof deep love. Indeed, it is God's own struments of human melody are broken, word to the believer, "I will be with there is a hand which can sweep the him in trouble”-as though that pre- heartstrings and wake the notes of sence, which can never be withdrawn, praise ? Yes, philosophy can communi. then became more real and intense. cate no comfort to the afflicted: it may

What are we to say of cases which enter where all is night; but it leaves continually present themselves to the what it found, even weeping and wailparochial minister? He enters a house, ing. And pleasure may take the lyre, whose darkened windows proclaim that whose strains have often seduced and one of its inmates is stretched out a enchanted; but the worn and wearied corpse. He finds that it is the fairest spirit has no ear, in the gloom, for and dearest whom death has made his what sounded magically, when a thouprey, and that the blow has fallen sand lights were blazing. But religion, where sure to be most deeply felt. And faith in the promises of that God who he is prepared for the burst of bitter is the Husband of the widow and the sorrow. He knows that the heart, when Father of the fatherless, this can cause most purified by grace, is made of feel. the sorrowing to be glad in the midst

of their sorrow; for it is a description to hear of the thorn and the thistle ; but which every believer will confess borne he may have learnt how thorns would out by experience, that God our Maker be woven into a crown, and placed giveth songs in the night.”

round the forehead of one who should But again—how beautifully accurate be the lost "tree of life” to a dying is this description, if referred general- creation. It was only to have been exly to God's spiritual dealings with our pected, when the fatal act had been race. It may well be said, that, so committed, that there would have assoon as man had fallen, it was night on cended from the earth one fearful cry, this creation. The creature had shut and that then an eternal silence would itself out from the favor of the Creator; have covered the desecrated globe. and what was this but to shroud the But, in place of this—though the gaglobe with the worst of all darkness? thered night was not at once disperIt was a darkness which no efforts of sed—there still went up the anthem of the human mind have been able to dis- praise from lowing herds, and waving perse. There is a point up to which corn, and stately forests; and man, in natural theology has advanced, but his exile, had an evening and a mornwhich it has never passed. It has dis- ing hymn, which spake gratefully of covered a want, but not a supply; it the head of the serpent as bruised by has detected a disease, but not its re. the seed of the woman-and all because medy. We do not perhaps need the God had already discovered himself as written word, in order to our ascer- our Maker" who giveth songs in the taining that we are exposed to God's night.” wrath. The remonstrances and forebo. Thus also it has been, and is, with indings of conscience are, in themselves, dividual cases. There may be many in sufficient to excite in us a belief and this assembly who have known what it dread of judgment to come, and per- is to be oppressed with apprehensions haps to extort from us the inquiry, of God's wrath against sin. They have " What must I do to be saved ?"' But passed through that dreary season, the answer to this inquiry can be fur- when conscience, often successfully renished only by a higher and deeper sisted, or dragged into slumber, mighthan natural theology. We make some tily asserts its authority, arrays the way by groping in the darkness, but transgressions of a life, and anticipates cannot emerge into the light.

the penalties of an eternity. And we But, God be thanked, man was not say of the man who is suffering from left to complain, and lament, in the conviction of sin, that it is more truly midst of that darkness which his apos- night with him, the night of the soul, tacy wove. There were provisions for than with the most wretched of those his' rescue, which came into force at on whom lie the burdens of temporal the moment of transgression. No soon- wo. And natural theology, as we have er bad man fallen than prophecy, in the already stated, can offer no encourageform of a promise, took the span of ment in this utter midnight. It may time, and gathered into a sentence the have done its part in producing the moral history of the world. And we convictions, but, in so doing, must have have great reason for believing that exhausted its resources. All its efforts even unto Adam did this promise speak must have been directed to the furnishof good things to come, and that he ing demonstrations of the inflexible was comforted, in his exile from Para- government of a God of justice and dise, by the hope which it gave him of righteousness; and the more powerful final deliverance. Compelled though he these demonstrations, the more would was to till an earth, on which rested they shut up the transgressor to the the curse of its Creator, he may have certainty of destruction. And neverknown that there was blessing in store; theless, after a time, you find the man, and that, though he and his children who had been brought into so awful a must dig the ground in the sweat of darkness, and for whose comfort there their brow, there would fall on it a is nothing to be gained from natural sweat like great drops of blood, having theology, walking in gladness, with a virtue to remove the oppressive male- lightened heart and a buoyant spirit. diction. It must have been bitter to himWhat could not be found in the stores

we

as

of natural theology, has been found in as when its framework is most shatthose of revealed intelligence, that God tered, and its strings are most torn. can, at the same time, be just and a Then it is, when the world pronounces justifier, that sinners can be pardoned, the instrument useless, and man would and sins not go unpunished. Therefore put it away as incapable of melody, is it that he who was in darkness, the that the finger of God delights in darkness of the soul, is now lifting up touching it, and draws from it a fine his head with joy, and exulting in hope. swell of harmony. Come night, come The Spirit of God, which produced the calamity, come affliction. God still conviction, has taken of the things of says to his people, as he said to the Christ, and, showing them to the soul, Jews, when expecting the irruption of made them effectual to conversion, the Assyrian, " ye shall have a song, as And we call upon you to compare the in the night.” man in these two estates. With his con- Is it the loss of property with which sciousness of the evil of sin heighten- believers are visited ? Our Maker "gived, rather than diminished, you find eth songs in the night," and the chorus him changed from the desponding into is heard, we have in heaven " a better, the triumphant; exhibiting, in the larg. even an enduring substance.” Is it the est measure, the accomplishment of the loss of friends? Our Maker, as words, that there shall be given " beau- have shown you, "giveth songs in the ty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourn- night;" they sorrow not, even ing, and the garment of praise for the others which have no hope;" and over spirit of heaviness." You can offer no the very grave is heard the fine conaccount of this surprising transforma- fession, " Blessed are the dead which tion, whilst you search for its reasons die in the Lord.” Have they their seain natural causes. But when you ap- sons of spiritual depression, when they peal to the workings of Omnipotence; cannot realize their privileges, nor aswhen you tell us of a propitiation for sure themselves of acceptance with sin; when you refer to a divine agent, God? Indeed this is hard to bearwhose special office it is, to bring men perhaps the severest of the trials which to put faith in a sacrifice which recon- they are called to endure. This was ciled a guilty world to its Creator- David's case, when he pathetically exthen you leave no cause for surprise, claimed, "Deep calleth unto deep, at that, from a soul, round which had ga- the noise of thy water-spouts; all thy thered deep and stern shadows, there waves and thy billows are gone over should be ascending the rich notes of me. Yet the Psalmist could go on, in praise, and the stirring strains of hope; the very next verse, to declare, " The but then you are only proving with Lord will command his loving-kindness what exquisite truth it may be said, in the day-time, and in the night his that God our Maker "giveth songs in song shall be with me.” And no be. the night.”

liever holds fast his confidence, as DaWe might easily multiply our illus. vid did, without proving, that, if God trations. We might follow the believ- hide for a while the light of his couner through all the stages of his pro- tenance, it is in order to make it more gress from earth to heaven; and where- valued; without finding cause to break soever you could show that it was into the song, "it is good for me that night, there could we show you that I was afflicted.” Let the thickest night God "giveth songs.” It is not that he gather; let death be at band; and giveth no songs in the day; for he is shall it be said that our text fails of with his people, and he wakes their accomplishment! On the contrary, it praises, in all time of their wealth, as is here emphatically true that our Mawell as in all time of their tribulation. ker "giveth songs in the night." The But it is our nature to rejoice when all believer in Christ knows and feels that within and without is undisturbed; the bis Redeemer "hath abolished death." miracle is to "rejoice in tribulation;" he is not insensible to the terrors of and this miracle is continually wrought death ; sor he regards the separation of as the believer presses through ihe soul and body as a direct consequence wilderness. The harp of the human of the original curse, and therefore awspirit never yields such sweet music, ful and disastrous. But then he is so

assured of immortality and a resurrec- there must come a night, a dreary and tion, that he can approach the grave oppressive night; for youth must dewith confidence, and even exult that part, and strength be enfeebled, and his departure is at hand. What upholds sorrow encountered, and the shadows the dying man? What throws over his of evening fall upon the path. And wasted countenance that air of sereni. what will they do then, if now, as God ty? What prompts those expressions complains by his prophet, " the harp of peace, those breathings of hope, and the viol, the tabret, and pipe, and which seem so little in accordance wine, are in their feasts, but they rewith his circumstances of trouble and gard not the work of the Lord, neither decay? It is that God is whispering to consider the operation of his hands ?" his soul such words as these, "Fear They may have their song now; but thou not, for I am with thee; be not then we shall have only the bitter exdismayed, for I am thy God; I will clamation, "the harvest is passed, the strengthen thee, yea, I will help thee.” summer is ended, and we are not savIt is that his Maker is reminding him ed.” We warn you in time. Though of the pledge, that death shall be swal- the firmament be bright, we show you lowed up in victory; that he is already the cloud, small as a man's hand, alcausing the minstrelsy of the eternal ready rising from the sea ; and we urge city to come stealing on his ear—and you to the breaking loose from habits is not all this the most convincing and of sin, and fleeing straightway to the touching evidence, that God our Maker Mediator Christ. It is for 'baubles giveth songs in the night ?”

which they despise when acquired, Who would not be a believer in wealth which they count nothing when Christ, who would not be at peace with gained, gratifications which they loathe God? When such are the privileges of so soon as passed, that men sell their righteousness, the privileges through souls. And all that we now entreat of life, the privileges in death, the won the young, is, that they will not, in the der is, that all are not eager to close spring-time of life, strike this foul barwith the offers of the Gospel, and make gain. In the name of Him who made those privileges their own. Yet, alas, you, we beseech you to separate yourthe ministers of Christ have to ex- selves at once from evil practices and claim, with the prophet, " who hath evil associates; lest, in that darkest of believed our report ?" and, with Elihu, all darkness, when the sun is to be "none saith, where is God my Maker, " black as sackcloth of hair,” and the who giveth songs in the night?" There moon as blood, and the stars are to fall, may yet be moral insensibility in num- you may utter nothing but the passionbers who hear me. What shall we say ate cry of despair ; whilst the righteto them? They may have youth on ous are lifting up their heads with joy, their side, and health, and plenty. The and proving that they have trusted sky may be clear, and the voice of joy in a God " who giveth songs in the may be heard in their dwelling. But night."

SERMON III.

TESTIMONY CONFIRMED BY EXPERIENCE.

" As we have heard, so have we seen, in the city of the Lord of Hosts, in the city of our God; God will

establish it for ever."--Psalm 48: 8.

There is a very striking part in the become concerned in the not leaving Litany of our church, when, between such to perish ; and shall they not then, two earnest supplications for deliver- with fresh confidence, reiterate their ance, God is reminded of the great petition ? No sooner therefore has the things which he had wrought in form- minister commemorated God's merer times. The supplications to which cies, than the people, as though they we refer are put into the mouths of the had a new source of hope, press their people. "O Lord, arise, help us, and suit with yet greater earnestness; and . deliver us for thy name's sake." "Otheir voices mingle in the cry,

'O Lord, arise, help us, and deliver us for Lord, arise, help us, and deliver us for thine honor.” Between these the mi-thine honor.” Is not this portion of nister is directed to exclaim, "O God, our Litany constructed on the princiwe have heard with our ears, and our ple, that, what we have heard of God's fathers have declared unto us, the no- doings in other times, we may expect ble works that thou didst in their days, to see or experience in our own, proand in the old time before them.” We vided only there be similarity of cirare always much struck with this ex- cumstance? are not, in short, the exclamation, and with the consequent al- clamation of the minister, and the conteration in the plea with which the sequent petition of the people, the expeople urge their suit for deliverance. pressions of a hope, or rather a belief, In the first petition it is, " deliver us that the words of our text shall again for thy name's sake;" in the second, be appropriate, "as we have heard, so "deliver us for thine honor.” The mi- have we seen, in the city of the Lord nister has heard the congregation in- of Hosts ?” voking God to come forth to their suc- It must have been to some special cor, and humbly reminding him how instance in which God had wrought a consistent it would be with all the at- deliverance, parallel to one celebrated tributes of his nature--for these are in Jewish annals, that reference is made included in his name—to comply with in our text. The statement is exactly their earnest supplication. And then what would be uttered, if the parties, the minister, as though he knew that who have joined in the quoted senthere was yet higher ground which tences of our Litany, were to become the people might take, commemorates the subjects of a divine interposition, the marvellous interpositions of which similar to those which the minister olden times had set down the records, commemorated. But it is observed by reminding the congregation, by making Bishop Horsley, that there is no recordconfession to God, of deliverances ed interference of God on behalf of wrought on behalf of their fathers. Jerusalem, which answers to the lanThe people are animated by the recol- guage employed in this Psalm. And it lection. They feel that God has pledg. is therefore probable that a prophetic, ed himself, by former answers to prayer, or, at least, a spiritual interpretation to arise, and shield those who cast them- must be given to the hymn. Indeed selves on his help. His own glory has there are expressions which will not

« НазадПродовжити »