« ZurückWeiter »
the ashes of a neighbouring pair, who, like Saul and Jonathan, were lovely and pleasant in their lives, and in their death they were not divided. Having spent many years together in the conjugal relation, they were, nearly at the same time, confined to beds of languishing; and, after a short period, fell, within eight hours of each other, victims to the uñerring dart of the universal conqueror; and now the same sepulchral rite awaits them; and the same silent mansion, in “ the house appointed for all living,” has opened its doors to receive and to conceal their intermingling dust till the morning of the resurrection. What a numerous crowd of spectators are collected ! all are interested, all are affected : - silence reigns around; and even the manly eye can scarcely restrain the flood of sorrow which is impatient to gush forth! I hear some enquiring into the probable reason of this melancholy scene. 6 Had they lived to an advanced age, and sunk together in the ruins of natural decay?" By no means : the elder of the two had not reached, by several years, his grand climacteric. “ Had, then, some pestilential disease visited the neighbourhood, or some contagious fever infected their habitation ?". No, nothing of this kind existed ; nor does it appear that the physicians could ascertain the immediate causes of dissolution in either: all must be referred to the sovereign pleasure of the all-wise Disposer of events. To him too we must refer their final state ; nor do we presume to hazard a conjecture on the subject. To their own Master they stood or fell; and from his lips they have ere now received their irrevocable sentence of acquittal or condemnation. We would only say, If they were the happy subjects of divine grace, and of that change of heart, without which Christ has declared, no man shall enter into his kingdom, how favoured, how enviable was their lot! To be excused from all the pangs which are felt by widowed hearts; and saved the bitter lingering death which, to borrow Dr. Young's beautiful thought, the survivor is left to taste, and together to enter on their final rest, - To receive at the same moment their blood-bought crowns from their smiling Saviour, and hand in hand to fall prostrate at his feet, lost in wonder, love, and praise! If, on the contrary, they knew only the form of religion, while they remained strangers to its divine eflicacy on their hearts, and lived as without God in the world, how awful must it have been to be driven at once from all the comforts and elegancies that affluence could procure, and sink in sad associa. tion down to the regions of dark despair; there to be companions in misery, and, by mutual reproaches, add more poignant bitterness to the dreadful cup of woe!
But let not our reflections terminate here. With the final state of the deceased, we have indced, comparatively, little concern; but there is another event which is of infinite importance to us,
we mean our own. The speatacle we have been contemplating, is singular in its circumstances, but not in its nature. The writer and the reader of this article will most probably descend into the gloomy cham' ers of death alone; but descend into them they must. Here is no room for doubt or uncertainty; for in this respect, “ one event happeneth to the righteous and the wicked ; to him that serveth God, and to him that serveth him not ;” and if Scripture, reason, and observation all unite their testimony to assure us that we must die, it is, undoubtedly, of the greatest consequence for us to enquire, Whether we are prepared for death? The manner and the time of our change is indeed altogether uncertain ; but this circumstance makes a timely preparation for it so much the more necessary. We may be removed by a lingering illness; but should this be the case, we know not that we shall remain in possession of our intellectual powers; and if we should, we shall then need the consolations of true religion, instead of having them to seek : but, on the other hand, we may be snatched away as in a moment; and those who have seen us one hour in health and strength, may the next look for us in vain ; and learn, with surprize, that we are gone to " that bourne from whence no traveller returns. Events of this kind are by no means rare :-every neighbourhood has witnessed them, and almost every newspaper records them.
Three remarkable instances have fallen under the immediate notice of the writer : -A near relation, having sat down in his accustomed health to a well-spread table, and eaten a hearty meal, was about to cut a piece of cheese, with which to conclude it; he raised his knife, but ere he could effect his purpose, Death had employed a keener weapon ; he sunk back in his chair, and breathed no more !:- An industrious neighbour had been home to his frugal repast, and having finished it, he took an affectionate leave of his wife, and hastened to resume his work. In two minutes he arrived at the place of his usual occupation, when, in descending a saw-pit, his foot slipped, he fell, and dislocated his neck; and although a gentleman of the faculty flew on the wings of Humanity to his assistance, he came too late, the impatient spirit had escaped from her clayey prison, and was gone to her final audit. The third is far more awful : A clergyman, not far distant from the spot on which these lines are written, was spending an evening, not in his closet, wrestling with his divine Master for the communications of that grace which is so peculiarly necessary for the faithful discharge of the ministerial "functions, - not in his study, searching the sacred oracles of truth for materials wherewith to prepare for his public exercises, and feed the flock under his care, - nor in pastoral visits to that flock, to enquire into the state of their souls, and endeavour, by his pious and affectionate conversation, to conciliate their esteem and promote their edification, but at the card-table! He left the room for a few moments, desiring his wife to deal his cards, by which time he should return.
This she had done; but he did not come back. The cards waited, the conversation was kept up, still he returned not: At length, surprized at his absence, his wife withdrew to seek him. In his chamber she found him, indeed, but she found him a lifeless corpse ! The die was for ever cast, and he was gone to the tribunal of his Judge, to give in his account of the charge committed to his care! How sudden, how unexpected a transition ! and it is worthy of remark, that within a very few years, this was the third character in this neighbourhood which had been suddenly taken from the pleasures of a card-table to the bar of God! O my friends, let us beware how we trifle away our precious moments! Are any of my readers in love with such idle amusements ? Let them seriously ask their consciences, Whether they should be willing thus to be hurried from them into the presence of the Almighty? A question of this kind was the mean, under God, of leading the writer to relinquish the vanities, and fly from the allurements of the world. O that it may have the same happy effect upon some of those whom she now addresses ! Providences like these we have noticed, cry to survivors, as with a voice of thunder, “ Be yé ready; for in such an hour as ye think not, the Son of man cometh.” O my dear readers, let not the kind admonition be lost upon any of you! That it may not, may the Spirit of God so sanctify bis providential dispensations, as to lead you in the time of health to consider your latter end, and seek the pardon of your sins and reconciliation to God, through the peace-speaking blood and finished righteousness of the dear Redeemer ! These will prove the best preparatives for death, in whatever form it may approach us; and, possessed of them, we may safely leave the rest to the disposal of that God who cannot err; for “ if we are found in Jesus' hands, our souls can never be lost.”. Should we be called speedily hence, sudden death shall to us be sudden glory; and we shall close our eyes upon a world of sin and sorrow, to open them immediately to the glorious vision of uncreated beauty and unfading felicity; or, should the wise decrees of Heaven ordain our departure by a slow and lingering disease, we shall have an opportunity of honouring our heavenly Father, by making known to others the riches of his grace, and proving the efficacy of his religion in supporting the mind when every other refuge is vain and unavailing; and in either case, we shall have an abundant entrance administered to us through the blood of the Lamb to those realms of glory, one hour's enjoyment of which would more than compensate whole ages of pain, affliction, and distress !
A PREVIOUS DETERMINATION TO CONDEMN,
A FREQUENT CAUSE OF
Wues persons begin to examine the nature or evidenees of Christianity, if they have any inclination to discover or admit the truth, will they not divest themselves of all prejudice against finding it true? They will surely act in this manner who have the least pretension to a fair or candid enquiry, or whose decision deserves at all to be viewed as impartial. Such as are desirous to examine with sufficient seriousness a matter of such importance as this, will surely examine fully the nature of revealed religion, that they may rightly understand it, and know what it is; and they will minutely and closely examine the evidences on which it rests. Till this be fairly done, they cannot say whether it ought to be embraced or rejected.
It is remarkable, however, that the conduct of Deists in reject. ing the gospel, is the very reverse of this. They do not sit down diligently to examine and discover the truth, and become converts to it; but with a previous determination to find fault and condemn. They seem resolved, at all events, per fas et nefas, to get rid of it, and to give their verdict against it. This has been so frequently the case, that I may appeal to every infidel who may read these thoughts, that he has not thoroughly examined the subject of Revealed Religion ; and that he does not understand what he has rejected. I will adduce, however, some remarkable examples of the truth of the position I have laid down, That a previous determination to condemn, has led Deists to reject Christianity.
Even Lord Herbert cannot be wholly freed from the charge. He wrote his book De Veritate, with a design to supersedle the Scriptures, and prove them unnecessary; and he afterwards wrote his book De Religione Gentilium, to shew that his five Articles obtained universally. In this he egregiously failed. The general prevalence of Polytheism contradicted his proof of the universal prevalence of the belief of the first; and the reign of ignorance, superstition, and idolatry, with the universal prevalence of cruelty and wickedness, contradicted all the rest. But if he bad given Christianity fair play, he would have perceived that Christianity contained all his five Articles, not resting on conjcctures, but communicated with certainty. What it contains over and above these his articles, will be found highly interesting and necessary for the peace and safety of man. Indeed, he took his articles from the Scriptures ; and then used them to dis. credit the book he was indebted to for them. Is it not evident that he was a partial and prejudiced judge, who could prefer 6 I am weary,
264 A PREVIOUS DETERMINATION TO CONDEMN, his Natural Religion to Christianity, which contains it all, and much more? in short, every thing else that is important for man to know, as the creature of God, as a sinner before him, and as an expectant of immortality.
Voltaire is another instance of inveterate prejudice and determined malice against Christianity. This arch infidel, being in England on some design, swore (as Condorcet says) to dedicate his life to the project of overturning Christianity. But why swear to overturn it before you have enquired into the merits of the cause, and know what it is you condemn? First prove it to be wrong, then it will be the easier to overturn it. But the manner in which Voltaire opposed Christianity, shews he never intended to give it fair play.
" he would
say, hearing people repeat, that twelve men have been able to establish Christianity; and I will prove, that one may suffice to overthrow it." Poor man! the puny efforts of a worm, crawling out of the earth, may as soon overturn Lebanon, with its lofty cedars, or the Andes, with their everlasting snows. Christianity will withstand your utmost opposition, and flourish uninjured when you are become the food of worms. His conduct shewed his inclination to destroy it; so that if it remain uninjured, he canRot help it, -- he has done all he could to make good his empty daring boast! The methods he took to accomplish his aim, would have disgraced any cause but his. Impudently daring, whether for or against, Voltaire would quote the Scriptures, history, and the holy fathers; affirming, inventing, or traducing the passage he wanted; for to wound was his only aim. Though a hundred times defeated, he returns to the charge; though his error be refuted, he will instantly repeat it: it is not in defeat, but in flight, that he sees disgrace; and thus, after a war of forty years, we still see him ranging on the field of battle * Thus it seems not to have been Voltaire's object to discover the truth.' He considered it his only disgrace to acknowledge himself to have been in the wrong. Such
is the pride and perversion of human reason, that Error proved such, will still be hugged by those who hate the truth, when it gratifies their ruling passions.
Gibbon wrote his History of the Decline and Fall of the Ro. man Empire, with a mind filled with prejudice against Christianity. He therefore viewed it with a jaundiced eye, and was disposed to interpret every circumstance to its disadvantage, and tried to cast all the odium of the cruelties and persecutions of those times upon it. In all this he only proves his ignorance of what he condemus, and his prejudice against it. This gentleman, after the distractions and cruelties of the French reyolu. tion, was sadly affected with the idea of his performance having contributed to bring about that event, so very different froin
* See the Abbe Barruel's Memoirs of Jacobinism,