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only to be thrown into utter disuse ? Was this instrument, - the intelligent soul, the noblest in the universe, was it so laboriously fashioned, and by the most varied and expensive apparatus, that, on the very moment of being finished, it should be cast away for ever? No, the dead, as we call them, do not so die. They carry our thoughts to another and a nobler existence. They teach us, and especially by all the strange and seemingly untoward circumstances of their departure from this life, that they, and we, shall live for ever. They open the future world, then, to our faith.
They open it also, and in fine, to our affections. No person of reflection and piety can have lived long, without beginning to find, in regard to the earthly objects that most interest him, — his friends, that the balance is gradually inclining in favor of another world. How many, after the middle period of life, and especially in declining years, must feel — if the experience of life has had any just effect upon them — that the objects of their strongest attachment are not here. One by one, the ties of earthly affection are cut asunder ; one by one, friends, companions, children, parents, are taken from us ; for a time, perhaps, we are “in a strait betwixt two,” as was the Apostle, not deciding altogether whether it is better to depart ; but shall we not, at length, say with the disciples, when some dearer friend is taken, “Let us go and die with him” ?
The dead have not ceased their communication with us, though the visible chain is broken. If they are still the same, they must still think of us. As two friends on earth may know that they love each other, without any
expression, without even the sight of each other; as they may know, though dwelling in different and distant countries, without any visible chain of communication, that their thoughts meet and mingle together, so may it be with two friends, of whom the one is on earth, and the other is in heaven. Especially where there is such an union of pure minds, that it is scarcely possible to conceive of separation, that union seems to be a part of their very being, we may believe that their friendship, their mutual sympathy, is beyond the power of the grave to break up.
But, ah! we say, if there were only some manifestation ; if there were only a glimpse of that blessed land ; if there were, indeed, some messenger bird, such as is supposed in some countries to come from the spirit-land, how eagerly should we question it !” In the words of the poet, we
“ But tell us, thou bird of the solemn strain,
Can those who have loved, forget ?
Do they love, do they love us yet?
And they speak not from cave nor hill;
But say, do they love there still ? The poetic doubt we may answer with plain reasoning, and plainer Scripture. We may say, in the language of reason, if they live there, they love there. We may answer, in the language of Jesus Christ, “He that liveth and believeth in me shall never die.” And again : “Have ye not read,” saith our Saviour, " that which was spoken unto you by God, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob ?
God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.” Then is it true that they live there ; and they yet speak to us. From that bright sphere, from that calm region, from the bowers of life immortal, they speak to us. They say to us, –
Sigh not in despair over the broken and defeated expectations of earth. Sorrow not as those who have no hope. Bear, calmly and cheerfully, thy lot. Brighten the chain of love, of sympathy, - of communion with all pure minds, on earth and in heaven. Think, O, think of the mighty and glorious company that fill the immortal regions ! Light, life, beauty, beatitude, are here. Come, children of earth ! come to the bright and blessed land !” I see no lovely features, revealing themselves through the dim and shadowy veils of heaven. I see no angel forms enrobed with the bright clouds of eventide. But " I hear a voice, saying, Write, Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord, for they rest for they rest from their labors, and their works — works of piety and love recorded in our hearts and kept in eternal remembrance - their works do follow them.' Our hearts - their workmanship ---do follow them. We will go and die with them. We will go and live with them for ever !
Can I leave these meditations, my brethren, without paying homage to that religion which has brought life and immortality to light ; without calling to mind that simple and touching acknowledgment of the great Apostle, “I thank God through our Lord Jesus Christ”? Ah ! how desolate must be the affections of a people, that spurn this truth and trust! I have wandered among the tom of such a people ; I have wandered through that farfamed cemetery that overlooks, from its mournful brow, the gay and crowded metropolis of France ; but among the many inscriptions upon those tombs, I read scarcely one,
- I read – to state so striking a fact with numerical exactness — I read not more than four or five inscriptions in the whole Père la Chaise, which made any consoling reference to a future life. I read, on those cold marble tombs, the lamentations of bereavement, in every affecting variety of phrase. On the tomb of youth, it was written, that “its broken-hearted parents, who spent their days in tears and their nights in anguish, had laid down here their treasure and their hope.” On the proud mausoleum where friendship, companionship, love, had deposited their holy relics, it was constantly written, “Her husband inconsolable,” “His disconsolate wife," "A brother left alone and unhappy,” has raised this monument ; but seldom, so seldom that scarcely ever, did the mournful record close with a word of hope, - scarcely at all was it to be read amidst the marble silence of that world of the dead, that there is a life beyond, and that surviving friends hope for a blessed meeting again, where death
comes no more,
O death !- dark hour to hopeless unbelief ! hour to which, in that creed of despair, no hour shall succeed ! being's last hour ! to whose appalling darkness, even the shadows of an avenging retribution were brightness and relief - death! what art thou to the Christian's assurance ? Great hour of answer to life's prayer, great hour that shall break asunder the bond of life's mystery, hour of release from life's burden, hour of reunion with the loved and lost, – what mighty hopes hasten to their fulfilment in thee! What longings, what aspirations, breathed in the still night, beneath the silent stars, what dread emotions of curiosity, - what deep meditations of joy, — what hallowed imaginings of never experienced purity and bliss, — what possibilities shadowing forth unspeakable realities to the soul, all verge to their consummation in thee ! O death! the Christian's death ! what art thou, but the gate of life, the portal of heaven, the threshold of eternity!
Thanks be to God, let us say it, Christians ! in the comforting words of Holy Scripture, - " Thanks be to God who giveth us the victory, through our Lord Jesus Christ !” What hope can be so precious as the hope in him? What emblems can speak to bereaved affection, or to dying frailty, like those emblems at once of suffering and triumph, which proclaim a crucified and risen Lord, which proclaim that Jesus the Forerunner has passed through death to immortal life? Well that the great truth should be signalized and sealed upon our hearts in holy rites ! Well that, amidst mortal changes, and hasting to the tomb, we should, from time to time, set up an altar, and say, “ By this heaven-ordained token do we know that we shall live for ever !” God grant the fulfilment of this great hope, - what matter all things beside ? — God grant the fulfilment of this great hope, through Jesus Christ !