« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
But in order to administer consolation to those who are exercised with adversity or sorrow, it is necessary that the cause should be understood and likewise the extent of grief. Unless the physician understands the cause of complaint, and the extent of disease, it would be mere chance if he did not give force to the former, and enhance the latter by his prescriptions. The case of the woman in the gospel is an instance of what we are now observing. Twelve years was she troubled with her disorder, " and had suffered many things of many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was nothing the better, but rather grew worse." But when she came to Jesus she was made whole without suffering any thing of him, and without expense.
The cause of that kind of sorrow which the Apostle was desirous to prevent appears to be ignorance. Observe the text; * But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.
The particular subjects suggested by these words, and to which our future labors in the present discourse may be directed are the following.
I. Ignorance concerning those which are asleep, is the only cause of hopeless sorrow for them.
II. The knowledge of the truth concerning those which are asleep administers hope and comfort to those who mourn for their friends.
III. This knowledge is communicated in the gospel, through Jesus Christ.
There are two powers by which ignorance operates in the human mind, in a way to prevent happiness and to augment sorrow, even to despair. The first prevents our knowing the things which belong to our peace, and the second opens a door for an infinite variety of imaginations all calculated to administer affliction and to cause our sorrows to increase.
The mind that is destitute of knowledge and at the same time devoted to fearful imagination, is like one disturbed by a frightful dream.
Safely slumbering in the peaceful chamber of repose, and no danger nigh, one might dream of descending a declivity directly leading to a fatal precipice, view destruction as inevitable, and feel the
pang of despair ; and the whole difficulty end with the sudden interruption of the dream. In fact, though there were every possible reason.for sweet content, supporting confidence, and joyful hope, ignorance of all these things would not only prevent these blessings, but expose the mind to a thousand imaginary anticipations which belong to the family of despair.
A few examples from the scriptures may serve fur ther to illustrate this subject.
There were three particular events relative to the patriarch Jacob, his ignorance of which was the cause of the greatest anxiety, most fearful apprehensions, and hopeless sorrow. When he was informed that his brother Esau, whom he had supplanted, was coming to meet him with four hundred men, he feared the wrath of his injured brother, and his soul was greatly troubled for his wives and for his children. There was no way of escape by flight, his means to oppose his brother were nothing; he feared all was lost, and that the anger of his brother would blot out his name forever from under heaven. Now imagination presented before his almost distracted eyes the most shocking catastrophe to which mothers and their innocent children could possibly be exposed. His fearful heart melted within him, and he placed his devoted family in the order in which, if they must be destroyed, his choice would dictate, and in that arrangement which might possibly afford him an opportunity of saving such as were the most dear to his troubled heart. But how suddenly were his fears all dispelled when Esau ran to him, embraced him with fraternal affection and tenderness, and kindly received and compassionately treated every branch of his family.
What an expense of feelings, the most tormenting would have been saved in this case, if the love and forgiveness, which most bountifully flowed in the heart
of Esau toward his brother, had been known to him, whose ignorance of the truth had deprived him of peace, and had let a thousand frightful apprehensions into his mind, which had no foundation in fact.
It might be about ten years after this, that the sons of Jacob brought to their father the coat of many colors, which his beloved Joseph wore from home, when he went to seek after the welfare of his brethren. This coat they now presented to their father, torn in pieces and covered with blood. - He knew it, and said, it is my son's coat ; an evil beast hath devoured him; Joseph is, without doubt, rent in pieces. And Jacob rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his loins, and mourned for his son many days.” Yea he refused all comfort and said; “I will go down into the grave unto my son mourning.”
Who can describe the sorrow which preyed on the heart of the afflicted father? Methinks I sec him seated alone beneath some favorite, salutary shade, giving vent to his grief and indulgence to his tears.
He seems to ask; was it the lion's paw that struck the tender lad to the ground, or was it the hungry jaw of the merciless tiger that dislocated his youthful limbs, or was it the voracious leopard that deprived me of the desire of my eyes ? O cruel ignorance! what dis tracting imaginations ! Could Jacob but have known that his Joseph was safe in the hands of the Angel of God who protected him, hope would have brightened his countenance, soothed his affliction, and administered peace and joy to his heart.
In the days of the famine, when the sons of Israel were to go down to Egypt the second time, and when they demanded Benjarnin to go with them, how trying was all this to the heart of the father of the twelve tribes. How full of grief are his words. “ Joseph is not, and Simeon is not, and ye will take Benjamin away. All these things are against me."
Such were the hopeless sorrows of one who was ignorant concerning the subjects of his sorrow. At the very moment when this dark and gloomy aspect lay before his eyes, Joseph was lord of all Egypt, the owner of the vast
graineries in that land of plenty, and Simeon was safe in the hands of his compassionate brother; and both were waiting with fervent desire to see Benjamin. Had the venerable Patriarch known at this tine the truth, his heart would have leaped for joy, as it afterwards did when his children returned and told him that Joseph was alive.
In the several cases which we have noticed, it is evident that the ignorance of Jacob was that which not only prevented the joyful expectations of hope, but introduced the most tormenting imaginations.
Now the sentiment of our text supposes that this is the case with those, who being ignorant concern. ing them that are asleep, sorrow for them without hope.
There are two opinions concerning those who are fallen asleep in death, and but two, which are calculated to exercise the mourner with hopeless sorrow.
The least pernicious, is the opinion that there is no future existence for mankind. When a person of this opinion loses by death any near and beloved connexion there are two grounds of sorrow. The first is the loss, the eternal loss of such a desirable connexion, and the other is the everlasting extinction of this intellectual moral being. And it is impossible that either of these reflections should be accompanied with the least ray of hope. Is it a father or a mother, a wife or a child, a brother or a sister, of which the mourner is bereaved? And was this connexion most dearly and tenderly beloved? What a gloomy thought, to believe that death has blotted out of existence one so tenderly and affectionately beloved, must present an impenetrable cloud of darkness to the mind, that forbids its making the least advance, repels, and drives it back on its perishable self, and yawns to receive the hopeless mourner to the abyss of nonentity.
Enough, you say, dwell not a moment on such horror. But what shall we say ? the other opinion, which denies the consolation of hope to the mourner is, that our future existence is worse, far worse than no existence at all.
Such are the dismal horrors of everlasting misery in the coming, eternal state, which the tra
ditions of the church have handed down from generation to generation, as have rendered the thoughts of eternity, thoughts of horror.
Is it replied, that our traditions admit that some few of the human family will be happy hereafter, and therefore when our friends die, we may entertain a hope that they belong to this little favorite number?
We reply; an absurdity is no just ground of hope. If but a few of the human family are appointed unto salvation, it is absurd for all to hope that they belong to that little number. It is a circumstance that affords matter of much contemplation; and one from which huinan weakness and human selfishness may be learned, that go where you will, among whatever denomination of people, even among those who hold the most illiberal sentiments, and believe that not more than one out of a thousand will be happy hereafter, yet if they lose any of their friends by death, they hope they are gone to rest. There are in this metropolis, no doubt, a very respectable number of pious people, who believe without a doubt, that when the Saviour said ; “many are called, but few are chosen,” he meant that but a few of the whole family of mankind are elected unto everlasting life in the eternal world ; and yet when these people are visited with bereaving providences, and any of their connexions are taken away by death, they hope it is well with them hereafter.
You cannot find one, in any possible case who will say to the contrary. Fathers, mothers, wives, children, brothers, sisters, near friends, intimate acquaintances, none of them will admit the doctrine of everlasting misery, in which they believe, to apply to each other, nor to themselves. And yet, according to their creed, they have not the least ground for the hopes which they entertain.
If you ask these people what reason they have for the least comfort, they will say; we do not know whom God has reprobated, and therefore we do not know that our friends or ourselves are appointed unto wrath. Thus their ignorance concerning them that are asleep, in most of instances, according to their