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THE MORAL INFLUENCE OF VISITING THE GRAVES OF THE DEPARTED.-STORY.
If this tender regard for the dead be so absolutely universal, and so deeply founded in human affection, why is it not made to exert a more profound influence on our lives? Why do we not enlist it with more persuasive energy in the cause of human improvement? Why do we not enlarge it as a source of religious consolation? Why do we not make it a more efficient instrument to elevate ambition, to stimulate genius, and to dignify learning? Why do we not connect it indissolubly with associations, which charm us in nature, and engross us in art? Why do we not dispel from it that unlovely gloom, from which our hearts turn, as from a darkness that ensnares, and a horror that appals our thoughts?
To many, nay, to most of the heathen, the burying-place was the end of all things. They indulged no hope, at least no solid hope, of any future intercourse or re-union with their friends. The farewell at the grave was a long, and an everlasting farewell. At the moment when they breathed it, it brought to their hearts a startling sense of their own wretchedness. Yet, when the first tumults of anguish were passed, they visited the spot, and strewed flowers, and garlands, and crowns around it, to assuage their grief, and nourish their piety. They delighted to make it the abode of the varying beauties of nature; to give it attractions which should invite the busy and the thoughtful; and yet, at the same time, afford ample scope for the secret indulgence of sorrow.
Why should not christians imitate such examples? They have far nobler motives to cultivate moral sentiments and sensibilities; to make cheerful the pathways to the grave; to combine with deep meditations on human mortality, the sublime consolations of religion. We know, indeed, as they did of old, that "man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets." But that home is not an everlasting home; and the mourners may not weep, as those who are without hope. What is the grave to us, but a thin barrier, dividing time from eternity, and earth from heaven? What is it, but
"the appointed place of rendezvous, where all the travelers on life's journey meet," for a single night of repose?
"'Tis but a night-a long and moonless night,
Know we not,
"The time draws on
When not a single spot of burial earth,
Why, then, should we darken, with systematic caution, all the avenues to these repositories? Why should we deposit the remains of our friends in loathsome vaults, or beneath the gloomy crypts and cells of our churches; where the human foot is never heard, save when the sickly taper lights some new guest to his appointed apartment, and "lets fall a supernumerary horror" on the passing procession? Why should we measure out a narrow portion of earth for our grave-yards, in the midst of our cities; and heap the dead upon each other, with a cold, calculating parsimony, disturbing their ashes, and wounding the sensibilities of the living? Why should we expose our buryinggrounds to the broad glare of day, to the unfeeling gaze of the idler, to the noisy press of business, to the discordant shouts of merriment, or to the baleful visitations of the dissolute? Why should we bar up their approaches against real mourners, whose delicacy would shrink from observation, but whose tenderness would be soothed by secret visits to the grave, and holding converse there with their departed joys? Why all this unnatural restraint upon our sympathies and sorrows, which confines the visit to the grave to the only time in which it must be utterly useless-when the heart is bleeding with fresh anguish, and is too weak to feel, and too desolate to desire consolation?
"MAN GIVETH UP THE GHOST, AND WHERE IS HE?"SPARKS.
Yes, when we see the flower of life fade on its stalk, and all its comeliness depart, and all its freshness wither; when we see the bright eye grow dim, and the rose on the cheek lose its hue; when we hear the voice faltering its last accents, and see the energies of nature paralyzed; when we perceive the beams
of intelligence grow fainter and fainter on the countenance, and the last gleam of life extinguished: when we deposit all that is mortal of a fellow-being in the dark, cold chamber of the grave, and drop a pitying tear at a spectacle so humiliating, so mournful; then let us put the solemn question to our souls, Where is he? His body is concealed in the earth; but where is the spirit? Where is the intellect that could look through the works of God, and catch inspiration from the Divinity which animates and pervades the whole? Where are the powers that could command, the attractions that could charm? where the boast of humanity, wisdom, learning, wit, eloquence, the pride of skill, the mystery of art, the creations of fancy, the brilliancy of thought? where the virtues that could win, and the gentleness that could soothe? where the mildness of temper, the generous affections, the benevolent feelings, all that is great and good, all that is noble and lovely, and pure in the human character,-where are they? They are gone. We can see nothing: the eye of faith only can dimly penetrate the region to which they have fled. Lift the eye of faith; follow the light of the gospel; and let your delighted vision be lost in the glories of the immortal world. Behold there, the spirits of the righteous dead rising up into newness of life, gathering brightness and strength, unincumbered by the weight of mortal clay and mortal sorrows, enjoying a happy existence, and performing the holy service of their Maker.
Let our reflections on death have a weighty and immediate influence on our minds and characters. We cannot be too soon nor too entirely prepared to render the account, which we must all render to our Maker and Judge. All things earthly must fail us; the riches, power, possessions, and gifts of the world will vanish from our sight; friends and relatives will be left behind; our present support will be taken away; our strength will become weakness; and the earth itself, and all its pomps, and honors, and attractions will disappear. Why have we been spared even till this time? We know not why, nor yet can we say that a moment is our own. The summons for our departure may now be recorded in the book of heaven. The angel may now be on his way to execute his solemn commission. Death may already have marked us for his victims. But, whether sooner or later, the event will be equally awful, and demand the same preparation.
One, only, will then be our rock and our safety. The kind Parent, who has upheld us all our days, will remain our unfail
ing support. With him is no change; he is unmoved from age to age; his mercy, as well as his being, endures forever; and, if we rely on him, and live in obedience to his laws, all tears shall be wiped from our eyes, and all sorrow banished from our hearts. If we are rebels to his cause, slaves to vice, and followers of evil, we must expect the displeasure of a holy God, the just punishment of our folly and wickedness; for a righteous retribution will be awarded to the evil as well as to the good.
Let it be the highest, the holiest, the unceasing concern of each one of us, to live the life, that we may be prepared to die the death, of the righteous; that, when they who come after us shall ask, Where is he? unnumbered voices shall be raised to testify, that, although his mortal remains are moldering in the cold earth, his memory is embalmed in the cherished recollections of many a friend who knew and loved him; and all shall say, with tokens of joy and confident belief, If God be just, and piety be rewarded, his pure spirit is now at rest in the regions of the blessed.
THE WORLD'S WANDERERS.-SHElley.
In what cavern of the night
Will thy pinions close now?
Tell me, moon, thou pale and gray'
Weary wind, who wanderest
On the tree or billow?
MAN'S HIGH DESTINY.-TAYLOR.
We have spoken of the "perpetual pleasures" that surround the throne of God. But what has man to do with themes so high, and so little in harmony with his actual condition? at him in the guise he wears! Does he seem like an aspirant
to immortality and glory? Is such an one as he indeed on his way to the royal abode of universal dominion?-Is not his eye anxiously fixed upon the low path he is treading? is not his brow knit with care, and soiled with degrading labor? is he not in heart ignoble? is he not emaciate? are not his garments worn-his feet lacerated-his provision corrupted? Yes, and has not his spirit bowed to the humiliations of his lot; so that he even consents to the scorn that belongs to it? All this is true, and more might be said; nevertheless, man must not surrender his pretension to the heavens. He has a special reason for his hope-a reason stronger than all contradictions.
"I WOULD NOT LIVE ALWAY."-EPISCOPAL WATCHMAN.
I would not live alway: no, no, holy man ;
While brethren and friends are all hastening home,
I would not live alway: I ask not to stay
I would not live alway: thus fettered by sin,