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By a Minister long accustomed to visit the sick and the dying.
MANY years ago I was requested to visit a young man, who, though a total stranger to me, had occasionally heard me preach, and in his affliction had expressed a desire to see me. When I entered his chamber, I found him sitting up in bed completely emaciated. His sister, who introduced me, having withdrawn and left us alone, collecting his breath amid much weakness, and with a considerable effort, he thus expressed himself: "I have been ill for a considerable time. When I was first seized, I thought that, as I had youth on my side, I should be able to weather the disease; but of late I feel my strength gradually declining, and I find that I must now make up my mind to it, that I am fast approaching my last hour." The excitement produced was too much for his weak frame, and he burst into tears.
When he had so far recovered himself as to be able to speak-aware that I was a stranger to his principles-he made the following remark: "I am not, sir, altogether unacquainted with the subject of religion, but I fear that with me it has been more a matter of mere speculation than of practical effect." We cannot think of this observation without feeling its deep importance. In such a country as this, those who move in certain circles cannot easily remain altogether ignorant of the leading doctrines of Revelation. They hear different opinions stated regarding these, and the arguments used in support of them. But there is an essential difference between such topics being the mere subjects of intellectual speculation and discussion, and the truth of God coming home with Divine power to the conscience and the heart-that truth being so received in the love of it, as, by its omnipotent energy, to bring down every lofty imagination, to subdue every principle in the inner man, and to bring every habit of the outer man into subjection to itself.
The effect produced by true religion is thus happily described by the Rev. Hugh White, in his Sermons on the Offices of the Holy Spirit: "To think on every subject that can engage our contemplation as Jesus thought, that is holiness of mind! To feel towards every object that appeals to our affections as Jesus felt, that is holiness of heart! To act, in every condition and circumstance in which we may be placed, as Jesus acted
-or, if in our place, would act that is holiness of life! Yes; to be cast into the very mould of Christ's character-in joy and sorrow, in love and hatred, in all we desire and all we dislike; to be one with Christ-to have the Spirit of Christ as a divine guest, dwelling within, and bringing all which meets the eye of God in the inner man into conformity to the mind of Christ; and to put on the Lord Jesus Christ, as a divine garment, worn without, and modelling all which meets the eye of the world, in the outer man, after the likeness of Christ-this-this is holiness! To attain to this is the first and dearest desire of him who loves the Saviour as his own people love him; and to accomplish this, and thus make him meet for the companionship of the saints of God on earth, and the presence of the God of saints in heaven, is the glorious office and prerogative of the Sanctifier, even God the Holy Ghost."
There may be some into whose hands this paper may fall who may be conscious that while, merely from education, they have some knowledge of these doctrines, they have nothing more. To such I would say, from the affecting case before us, consider what your feelings will be if you should be capable of thinking when in the near prospect of eternity. "The time is coming when, by the departure of health, or the receding of life, many are forced, with a mortal reluctance, on a scene of thought fearfully foreign, desolate, and uncongenial with all they had willingly given their attention to before."
The great difficulty here is, to prevail on men to think-to look forward to their final hour. This is particularly the case with the young. They conceive it is unnecessary for them to trouble themselves about religion so soon. It seems to them a gloomy and repulsive subject; and that as according to all human probability they will have time enough afterwards to consider it, they may, in the meantime, with safety banish it from their minds. Should the reader think thus, and secretly make this apology to himself for this felt and acknowledged indifference, I would say to him, My young friend, this very sentiment has ruined thousands, and I cannot too carefully guard you against its deceitful influence. We read in Scripture, not only that the "heart of man is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked,” but also that the devil, the god
of this world, blinds the minds of them that believe not, and thus prevents them from listening to the voice of Divine mercy; and while the existence of such a power is clearly revealed in Scripture, it seems to be strongly confirmed by daily observation and experience. It is not easy otherwise to account for men's insensibility to their prospects for eternity. In other cases they are alive to their own interests. Tell them of anything in which their present happiness is involved, and you are sure to have their ear. But speak to them about the eternal world and the foundation of their future hopes, and you cannot prevail on them seriously to inquire if there is reason to believe that such a world exists, or if it do, what ground they have to hope that it will be to them a world of happiness. Now, this unaccountable delusion lies in this, that though we know not how soon, or how suddenly and unexpectedly, we shall be called on to give an account of the deeds done in the body, when the possibility of a change is gone for ever, men will not be persuaded to lay to heart that subject which, if they think at all, they must be convinced transcends in point of importance every other.
The next observation made by this young man was, Oh, sir, I feel just like a drowning man, ready to catch at a straw." What did this convey? If I interpreted it aright, it indicated great agitation of mind, a certain dread of the consequences of death, and a deep anxiety to find something to rest on in the prospect of it. And can a rational being who believes there is an hereafter, or, I should rather say, who is not fully persuaded there is none (which no man can be), look forward to his great change with any other feelings?
Two reflections here occur. If such be the feelings of nature in the near approach of the moment of dissolution, what an overwhelming cause of thankfulness is it that we have the revelation of mercy! It discovers two things. First, the existence of a future world. "Life and immortality are brought to light by the gospel. But it does more. It brings peace to the troubled conscience in the prospect of appearing before God. It lays a solid foundation on which the hope of salvation rests, while it points us to the great atoning sacrifice offered by Jesus Christ, and assures us that "whosoever believeth in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life," John iii. 16. But another reflection here naturally
and irresistibly presses itself on the mind, when we hear a dying man thus expressing himself in the near prospect of eternity. Oh! is it not deeply to be regretted that the revelation of Divine mercy did not seriously occupy his thoughts while the day of health continued? that he should never have cherished the inquiry, that he should never have allowed it fairly to come home to his bosom, "Is there a refuge for the guilty? If there be, what is it? Have I resorted to it? Am I living in safety within the walls of the appointed city of refuge, and thus secured against every danger?" How melancholy is it if this has either been neglected altogether, or only been a subject of speculation floating in a man's head, and if he has never been concerned to have his mind made up upon this most important of all inquiries; if it has not been the object of his deliberate aim as much as possible to have his principles fixed, and his views matured, on a point of such ineffable moment. That man is deeply criminal, and, in the language of Scripture, wrongeth his own soul;" he is the dupe of the god of this world and the deceitfulness of his own heart; he is acting as a fool for eternity, who, in the day of health, does not bend the full force of his mind to this question, which should throw into the shade every other, "What is the foundation of my future hope?" And while he feels all its vast importance, and the danger of every source of deception on such a subject, he will rejoice in the thought that the throne of grace is ever open, and that those who, under a sense of guilt and their tendency to err, feel their need both of pardoning mercy and of Divine direction, are assured if they come to it in the name of Jesus they shall not come in vain. The most earnest prayer of the man who thus feels that the salvation of the soul is indeed the one thing needful, will be that of the Psalmist: "Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts; and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting."
Let me ask, my dear reader, have you ever prized the privilege of the throne of grace? Have you ever from your inmost soul offered this prayer? These are simple but momentous questions. The man who has not, has never been properly aware of his danger. If he has not thankfully accepted the invitation of Divine mercy through Jesus Christ, unless he be at the time under the opiate of
infidelity, or some other refuge of lies, he will feel, in the hour of extremity, "like a drowning man, ready to catch at a straw."
Here I cannot omit noticing one most comforting and encouraging consideration that when called to visit the sick and the dying, we are authorized to proclaim the gospel to men, whatever their previous character may have been. At every period of human life we are to announce to all that God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, not imputing to men their trespasses. Without this we could have no comfort in visiting the afflicted, especially those with whose previous character we were unacquainted, or whose character we may know to have been very much the reverse of what it ought to have been. Some are afraid of presenting too freely the invitations of the gospel, lest they should be abused. But if anything can be expected to melt the hard and impenitent heart, it is that rich manifestation of Divine condescension and grace which the gospel, in all its native fulness and simplicity, contains. We guard against the abuse of it in another way. We point out the effect of faith on the heart and the character as the necessary evidence of its reality; and further that, though there is no limit in the offer of Divine mercy, if men through life abuse their high privileges, they may, in just judgment, be given up to hardness of heart, and searedness of conscience. This may be the commencement of their merited punishment, and that which seals all that is to follow.
and relatives, while in health, to the danger to which all are exposed, as transgressors of that law which reaches every secret thought, and the necessity of a personal interest in the Saviour as the only sure foundation of comfort and hope. This is seen from two considerations. First, under affliction the faculties are often impaired by disease, so that there is no farther access to the mind. Secondly, that even where this is not the case, medical attendants often warn those who wait upon their patients to avoid introducing any subject that might depress or agitate them, as they consider keeping the mind easy is essentially connected with the hope of their recovery. Often have Christian friends in this case suffered the most agonizing perplexity regarding the path of duty; fearful on the one hand of injuring the sufferer, and on the other, of losing the only remaining opportunity they may ever enjoy of directing his thoughts to the only refuge of the guilty. To the Christian reader I would say, If you would guard against the possibility of such a feeling, frequently, in the day of health, survey the whole circle of your duties. Endeavour to anticipate, in imagination, the period when you must be separated from all who are dear to you on earth, either by their death or your own, and treat them now with all that fidelity you would wish you had manifested, when that hour actually arrives.
I know no consideration more fitted to alarm every reflective mind, and to make a man tremble at the thought of being involved in such a condemnation; for who can deny that if a man is given up of God, as the effect of his deliberate and allowed neglect of the revelation of Divine mercy, he justly brings all the consequences of this neglect on his own devoted head. "Because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved, for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they may believe a lie." Let any one seriously contemplate this truth, and it cannot fail to prove the most effectual antidote against the perversion of the doctrine of salvation by grace.
Among other lessons taught by a visit to the house of affliction, is the high importance of Christians being very faithful in improving every suitable opportunity of calling the attention of their friends
The importance of attending to this suggestion may be best illustrated by a case from real life. I lately had occasion to visit a Christian friend, whose eldest son (a young man of twenty) had died suddenly at a distance from home. With a heart overwhelmed with anguish he thus expressed himself: "The great object of my solicitude is the state of my dear boy's soul before God. I have just been endeavouring to collect all the little items of evidence that I could find that he had received the Saviour. Though he had not joined in the communion of the church before he left us, I was happy to find that he had done so in the town whither he had gone to reside. I have also learned from his brother, who slept in the same room, that he was regular in private prayer. I have learned also, that the last words he uttered were, 'Lord Jesus, I look to thee; receive me.' I felt much comfort from the thought that, as none ever applied to our Lord in vain while he was on earth, surely none can do so now. He was a gentle and
obedient boy; and I find that he was much liked by his employers. But, oh that I had more decided evidence of his union with Christ by a true and living faith I feel that I was too reserved, and did not speak with sufficient plainness, from what I now feel to have been a false delicacy."
The reader may be naturally supposed desirous of knowing the issue of the first interview I had with the interesting subject of this paper. I had one or two opportunities of repeating my visit, when I endeavoured, as fully and simply as I could, to direct his attention to the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sins of the world; pointing out the unlimited invitations of Divine mercy, that whosoever will is invited to come and take of the water of life freely. Such statements he felt to be peculiarly fitted to his case. They proved a soothing balm to his troubled spirit.
From that deep sense of guilt which he felt in having neglected, in the day of health, his best and highest interests, and the avidity and gratitude with which he listened to the gospel, I cannot but entertain the hope that he died in wellgrounded peace.
I conclude in the impressive language of Robert Hall. The man who, in the day of health, neglects to attend to the interests of the soul, will find at last "that he has committed a mistake at once infinite and irreparable; that he has been guilty of an infatuation which it will require eternity to deplore, and eternity to comprehend."
sure. Most servants would rather be their own masters than serve others. Satan contrives to make his servants be-lieve that they are doing their own will, pursuing their own pleasure and interest, when they are most vigorously doing his work. He never hires them to do his work, but rather solicits permission to assist them in doing theirs. Satan helps some men all their lives, more or less, in getting a living, or increasing their riches, or in the pursuit of pleasure. But it is all one; whether he helps us, or we help him, we are his servants. Oh! be jealous over yourselves, lest any of you, being deceived by the deceitfulness of sin, should be hardened thereby. This master is a deceiver; and thousands are still deceived by him, though the world was warned of his character by the great teacher near two thousand years ago. And the advertisement has been repeated thousands of times: "If he speaketh of a lie, he speaketh of his own; for he is a liar, and the father of it." Yes, and a murderer too. A murderer of souls.
The other master is all excellence, goodness, and truth. Faithful to his every promise; fulfilling every promise in which he causes his servants to hope. His knowledge is too extensive to be deceived by any servant; his goodness too great to deceive the humblest or meanest of his servants. In the choice of masters, it would appear as though they need but to be known to lead men at once to choose the good master, and to reject with disdain the appearance of the other's servitude.
II. The work comes now for notice.Satan the deceiver hides from his servants the character of his work, as well as the fact of their serving him. Though with the blacking-brush he polishes his work. Swearing is gentlemanly, or at least a mark of courage. Drunkenness is good fellowship. To be licentious is to be gay. Sabbath profanation is necessary exercise, or healthful recreation. But let no one suppose that to be his servant requires the practice of sin in its more scandalous forms, or even the neglect of religion in its outward forms and duties. The path of strict morality, yes, and the way to the house of God, may be trod while he is faithfully served. He has employment for the moral and respectable man, as well as the immoral and profane.
The work of the other master is obedience-obedience to the commands and precepts of the gospel, in its inward
experience and outward duties. The gospel of Jesus Christ is the law and rule of his service. It must be obeyed in all its requirements. His work must be begun in repentance towards God, and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ; and carried on in the practice of all, to which the love of God with all the heart, and the love of our neighbour as we love ourselves, will lead. On the sabbath and during the six days of the week. In the sanctuary and in the workshop, the field and in the sale room, and market. It does not deceive us in pretending to give us liberty to please ourselves; no, it requires us in all things to please God. It releases none of its commands to any. The servant of Satan may appear among the servants of God, and appear to act as they do; but the servant of God may not appear among the servants of Satan, and act as they do.
III. We now come to the wages.Whatever Satan may promise, he has nothing to give. The wages of his servants are paid by another. Their wages is death, "sin unto death." That death which is the wages of sinning, and the death which is inflicted on all as the consequence of the first man's sin, are two different things. The one is the death of the body, the other the end of the happiness of the never-dying soul. Death is the most gloomy and dreadful thing that comes across a man's thoughts or fears. Whatever befalls a man, yet leaves life in him, we say of it, it might have been worse. This most dreadful of all things is the image of Scripture for the unseen miseries of hell, the wages of the impenitent sinner. How dreadful must it be! Did we not say he was a deceiver. He has nothing to give-not even a home, or a master's name to protect his servants. Fly, then, his service. The longer and the more faithfully you serve him, the worse will your end be.
IV. Lastly, the rule to discover whose servants we are.—Whose servant, reader, are you? Whose-it is a most important inquiry-whose work are you doing? Where did you last go for pleasure; to the ale-house, the theatre, the card-table, the fair, the village wake, or to the sanc tuary? What the last use you made of your tongue; was it to utter an oath ? was it to deceive another? or was it to offer prayer to God? What was the object of your last visit to a neighbour's house? Was it to hear or tell some current scandal, or to speak of the things which make for the peace of time and eternity? Where were you last sabbath; visiting a friend, or in fellowship with God?
The wages of the other master are as excellent as his character, and as delightful as his work to his servants. "Obedience unto righteousness," "Righteousness unto holiness, in the end everlasting life:" thus are they described. The most desirable of all things is life. It is the last thing with which a man will willingly part. But ah! it is not such life as we love on earth;-a life mixed with cares and anxieties, made up at best of hope, and fear, and peace, and strife -mingled shades of grief and joy ;-but a life like the river proceeding from the throne clear as crystal.
Whose servant are you? Whose servant? Whose? Think of the character of the masters, of their work; and their wages, and say, now, whose will you be. The servants of sin are the dupes of Satan, their wages will be just what the justice and power of God sees fit to inflict upon them. The servants of God will be hereafter owned as his children. If you are still a servant of sin, quit its work, cast of its badges. Stay not to finish one unfinished job, at once strike, and offer yourself to the better master. While he calls, "Come out from among them, and I will be a father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters,' Come! Come at once! Come all! W. D. INGHAM.
THE BURNING BRAND.
"Is not this a brand plucked out of the fire ?" Zech. iii. 2.
THE words suggest, first, great misery and extreme danger. Secondly, a seasonable, sudden, and unexpected relief. Third, the subject of this is exhibited to repel accusations and encourage others.
I. The words suggest great misery and extreme danger.
1st. A brand is wood, and, therefore, fit fuel for the fire. This indicates what is the desert of the sinner. He has rendered himself obnoxious to the justice of heaven, and, as guilty, might be punished with everlasting destruction, He has become the degenerate plant of a strange vine, Jeremiah ii. 21; v. 14; Ezek. xv. 1-8. Not only by our guilt are we liable to punishment, but by our depravity. The heart is evil, alienated from God, in love with the world and sin. The mind and conscience