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It is, I suppose, universally admitted, that the love of life is natural to man; and there are certainly many things connected with the present state of existence to render life desirable. The world in which we dwell has been admirably fitted up for our convenience and comfort; and there are good gifts constantly coming down from the Father of mercies, to sustain and cheer us during our residence here. There are opportunities here for doing good; for administering relief to the needy and wretched; for aiding the cause of truth and piety; and thus glorifying God in our body and spirit. There are the means of working out our own salvation; of laying up treasure in heaven that will satisfy and endure; and even the afflictions of the present become a furnace in which the soul is prepared to shine with increasing beauty and brightness in the future. And there are some of the Christian graces, for the development of which this is the only theatre ; for when injury ceases, there will be no occasion for forgiveness; and when suffering ceases, there will be no demand for patience. Indeed, there is good reason why every individual should be thankful for his present existence: even though he perverts it to his eternal ruin, yet the hours of life are golden hours; they are given to be a blessing, and praise is due to Him who bestows them.
VOL. XIII. No. 9.
There are reasons enough, then, why every good man should set a high value upon life. But there are reasons also why no good man could consistently desire to live alway. It is possible, indeed, that there may be, even in the true Christian, a criminal dissatisfaction with the world ; a desire to die only because it is painful to live ; and this spirit is certainly always to be condemned. It is not certain but that Job had a measure of this feeling when he made the declaration in our text. But there are other grounds on which the declaration may be made by the Christian with perfect consistency. To exhibit these grounds is the design of the present discourse.
I say, then, the Christian does not desire to live alway, because he prefers,
Perfect light to comparative darkness :
I. The first reason why the Christian would not live alway, is his preference of perfect light to comparative darkness.
I know, indeed, that when the old man is put off and the new man is put on, there is a sense in which the soul is brought out of darkness into marvellous light. The mind takes far more distinct and comprehensive views of divine truth than it ever did before : it has a spiritual discernment imparted to it, by means of which what had before seemed faint and shadowy, becomes substance and life. But even that marvellous light into which the new-born soul enters when he is delivered from the blindness of spiritual death is itself darkness, when compared with the radiant manifestations of Jehovah's glory in the upper world. Here the Christian, in his best state, sees through a glass darkly. How very little does he know of the plan of God's operations ! How he is confounded at almost every step by the occurrence of events whose meaning he is utterly unable to explain! How many things, after his best efforts to comprehend them, he is obliged to resolve into God's mysterious and unfathomable sovereignty! And in his contemplations of God's truth, as it is revealed in his word, how frequently is he perplexed with doubt in respect to the actual meaning of the Spirit ; and when he attempts to launch out at all beyond the Revelation, how quickly does he find himself sinking in a gulf of conjecture and uncertainty! How humbling to the pride of the intellect, how indicative of the narrowness of its conceptions, to find himself obliged to receive different truths, which he knows must be consistent with each other, which yet he is perfectly inadequate to reconcile ; to catch just an indistinct glance of some great field of truth, and then perhaps find his vision immediately obstructed by intervening clouds ! But then how delightful the contrast when he reaches heaven ! There, many a dark page in the history of God's dispensations on earth will be illumined by a clear and satisfying light. There he will know why he had anguish when he longed for rest; why his plans were defeated by which he would fain have glorified God; why Zion was left so long to mourn, and the chariot-wheels of her King were so slow in their approach, when God's people were upon their knees praying and watching for the dawn of a brighter day. And the mysteries of Redemption-Oh, how they will unfold to his delighted eye; how the great and holy truths which he knew so imperfectly here will burst upon him in their full brightness, and in the harmony of perfect proportions ! There, there will be no uncertainty, no confusion, no darkness at all. This seeing through a glass darkly is the business of earth ; seeing face to face will be the business of heaven. There the vision will be perfect; and the Sun of the moral universe will shine with immortal splendor.
I bless God for all the light which he gives me now; but I would not live alway, because I have the assurance that a brighter light will shine hereafter. I love to bend over the mysteries of Providence and the mysteries of Redemption ; and sometimes a field of glory opens suddenly upon me where thick darkness had always brooded before ; but I own that I have my eye and my heart upon a world where I hope to live for ever amidst the brighter beams of immortal truth. I would not live alway, because I desire to get rid of this painful ignorance and doubt which now oppresses me; because I would fain behold my God as he is, and see light in his light.
II. The Christian does not desire to live alway, because he prefers immaculate purity to partial sanctification.
Time has been when he was dead in trespasses and sins; when he had no discernment of spiritual beauty, no relish for spiritual objects. But in the renovating change that has passed upon him, both his views and his tastes have been corrected. He regards sin now as the most abominable of all evils; as tending to the subversion of Jehovah's throne; as the deadly seed from which spring all the calamities of the world, and all the horrors of hell. And yet this evil and bitter thing in a measure still adheres to him. It often withers his best joys. It throws a barrier between him and the throne of grace, when his Savior bids him come, and his heart would respond gratefully to the invitation. It makes duty a burden, and prosperity a curse. And though it does not prevail always to the despoiling of his joys, and the obscuring of his graces; though there are times when his devout affections are brought into vigorous and delightful exercise, yet often, very often, has he occasion to exclaim, “O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death ?” And when this burden presses hin down, is it not natural that he should desire to be free from it; and that he should look with grateful expectation towards heaven, as the only region of perfect purity? Into that immortal residence nothing can ever enter that defileth or maketh a lie. There is the infinitely holy God. There are the perfectly holy angels. There every heart beats, every faculty operates, every harp is strung, in subservience to great and holy ends. At the gate of that world, the Christian lays aside all that is earthly, and puts on the robes of perfect holiness; and henceforth, even the scrutinizing eye of the seraph cannot discern upon him the least vestige of the curse.
I would not live alway, because I would not always be half a sinner and half a saint. I hate this body of sin and death, and in God's best time I would be glad to throw it down. I long to be delivered from these wandering thoughts; from these expressions of devotion into which my cold and reluctant heart will not throw itself; from this feebleness and inconstancy of effort in doing the will of Him who hath died for me. I would be conversant only with holy objects; I would be the subject only of holy exercises ; I would be engaged only in holy employments; and I would not live alway, because then this sweetest, noblest desire of my heart could never be fulfilled.
III. The Christian would not live alway, because he prefers immortal strength to earthly weakness.
I will not speak of this body now as it came originally from its Creator's hands : then no doubt it was strong and glorious ; for it was a part of that creation which the great Framer of the whole pronounced "very good.” But ever since sin entered to blight the beauty of Jehovah's works, the human body has been characterized by a tendency to decay. Look at the man writhing in bodily anguish ; bending under bodily decrepitude ; fainting from bodily exhaustion ; and say whether sin has not mixed up its poison in the very blood that courses through our veins? And if the body is weak, so is the mind also. It is conscious, indeed, of having within itself a principle of greatness ; it is sometimes surprised by the exercise of its own faculties; but after all, many of its operations are exceedingly feeble and unsatisfying. And there is a proportional weakness in human virtue ; for how frequently is virtue conquered and carried away captive in the war with temptation !
Since then the Christian, while he remains here, is comparatively feeble in his whole nature, how reasonable that he should aspire to a state in which he shall exchange his present imbecility for enduring and ever-growing strength! At the threshold of heaven he will drop this crazy, corruptible, inglorious body, and ere long will receive in its place a body endued with undecaying vigor, and clothed with unfading beauty; a body which may mock at the power of death ; and which can move as if upon the lightning to execute God's high commissions in other worlds. And the intellect-Oh, how it will brighten and expand ; how it will rise to that which is lofty, and sink into that which is profound, and never tire either in the sublimity of its excursions or the depth of its researches ! And the moral faculties—with what incalculable energy will they operate, when God's Spirit has given them a perfect direction, and there is all the beauty and glory of the third heavens to call them into exercise ! I ask again, is it not reasonable that the Christian should hail the day when he shall be taken up to that region of immortal strength ?
I would not live alway, because I do not wish always to be an heir to these clustering infirmities of mortality. I would bear patiently the pains, the groans, the tossings, to which this poor body is subjected; but I would rather be beyond their reach, and wear a body that could bid defiance to disease ; that could shine with an angel's beauty, and move with an angel's strength. I would not complain of the feebleness of my mental operations; and yet I would hail with gratitude the expansion of these powers into something yet greater and brighter : I would prefer the noble thoughts of glorified manhood, to the narrow conceptions of this infancy of my existence. I would be thankful for what God has made me; and humble for what I have made myself; but I would wait in exulting hope of a complete renovation of my nature, in which I shall have strength imparted to me to tear an eternal weight of glory.
IV. The Christian would not live alway, because he prefers cloudless serenity to agitating storms.
The natural world has its tempests; and sometimes they are so violent as well nigh to shake the earth. The thick cloud lowers ; the thunders roar; the lightnings flash; the whirlwind rushes by; and man himself is obliged to look out for a refuge from the war of elements. But far more to be dreaded are the storms that agitate the