Page images

serve—the dizzy brain is sobered, the swimming eye becomes clear and steady--the laugh and the oath die away in hollow moans.

Death is truly full of terror. The brute fears him: the child, lost in wonder and vague alarm, shrinks from him as a natural foe. His silent step on the mountains changes the forest trees, and the birds leave them; the flowers wither at his coming, and all the busy beings who had played in the summer air, fold their wings, and pass—we know not whither,

But if death is terrible, so is he kingly: he among monarchs truly reigns by the grace of God." The house where he has been is for the time sacred—it is for the time the house of God—for God's messenger has been there. We enter it with careful steps, and speak in it with lowered voices. The boy, commonly full of play, cannot play there: he is awed by an unseen majesty. The little girl, poring over her story book, dare not, though she knows not why, utter one word above her breath. In that house familiar things are for the time strange; the common articles of furniture seem altered. The room may be full, but yet it is lonely; the windows may be open, but still all is dark and close. The daylight does not pour in and enliven the house, but rather gloom passes out from within, and overshadows nature. And they, through whose midst Death has passed, and from among whom he has taken the called one,--they are made sacred by his presence. We reverence the mourner-no matter what his condition of life-no matter even what his character: for the time we look on him as one standing nearer Heaven than we do. The child, which a few hours since lay upon that bosom, is now with God; and can we look upon the parent as upon a common man!

But the mystery, the terror, and the majesty of Death, can be fully realized only by those who are directly visited by him, and by them only for a time. To those who lived before the coming of Christ, the grief natural to the loss of a near friend was almost insupportable. Cicero, though convinced that the pure and good were eternally happy, could find little relief when Tullia died, save in the idea of perpetuating her memory by treatises and temples; and his friend, Sulpicius, could suggest to comfort him only wordly considerations, the sole passage in his famous letter, which refers to a future life, saying that if the dead have any sense, it must grieve Tullia to see his grief."

But the terror and the mystery have fled in a measure before the face of Jesus. Any one who would know how great

our privileges, need but read the views of the wisest of Romans: they will make him realize how much is revealed to us for which sages waited in vain.

It is true that Death still brings deep, heart-wringing agony. But it is also true that to the Christian this agony will be full of Heavenly balm. Truly does the poet say,

Who ne'er his bread in sorrow ate,

Who ne'er the mournful midnight hours,
Sorrowing upon his bed, has sate,–

He knows you not, ye Heavenly powers."

To the Christian, Heaven becomes a home as the loved ones pass thither. He in his sleep, may see, as Jacob did, angels visiting him. He, in his sleep, or in his better waking hours, may leave this world, and walk once more with the friends who have gone home; walk with them in a land where there is no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, nor pain.”

If we were but able, through our sins, to see God as Adam saw him; if we could but live in his presence, and sit at his feet,-evil could visit us no longer. Our great, our only misfortune is, absence from God; and therefore was it that Jesus came truly to reconcile us to our Father, and lead us back into his presence. By his own death he did more than we can estimate toward that reconciliation; and, by the death of those with whose roots of life ours are entwined, and from whom we cannot part, God is still reconciling us to Himself. We cannot keep them here—so we must pass with them elsewhere. Thus are our thoughts and affections drawn from earth, drawn from material things, and led to dwell on spiritual things; and, step by step, following the lost ones, as a shepherd climbs the mountain for his lost lamb, and knows not whither it is leading him, we struggle up till the clouds are passed, and there is no longer any thing between us and the source of all light.

To one who walks in the power of the Gospel, therefore, the king of terrors becomes the messenger of peace; his iron sceptre becomes a rod with which our strong hearts are touched, so that a spring of piety bursts forth.

And from that blow comes not only piety, but, after a season, universal charity. For a time we may turn from our fellows, and in our eager longing to rejoin the friend from whom we have parted, may slight others. The love we feel for the lost may seem to swallow up all other love. Following the ascending spirit to its bright abode, our eyes are dazzled, and when we look on earth again, it is common and

dark and dreary. We become despondent, lose our energy, and lose our interest in others. But, if Christian faith be alive in our hearts, such feelings will not last long. The deep affection which caused them will remain as strong, stronger than ever; but it will cease to be individual, it will pass over upon others. Without the less revering the one first loved, we learn to love many more. The purified attachment we bear to a pure spirit will enlarge and make worthy all our affections. The sainted spirit even may visit us to chide away our gloom:

“ With a slow and noiseless footstep

Comes that messenger divine,
Takes the vacant chair beside me,

Lays her gentle hand in mine.

“ Uttereù not, yet comprehended,

Is the spirit's voiceless prayer;
Soft rebukes, in blessings ended,

Breathing from her lips of air.

“O! though oft depressed and lonely,

All my fears are laid aside;
If I but remember only

Such as these have lived and died."

How, indeed, can we think or speak harshly of others, or feel revenge toward them, or remain indifferent to them, when we realize that we are with Him who is universal love? How can narrow, personal and mean motives sway us while we stand hand in hand with One who is freed from all that is contracted and vile? As we lose brothers and parents, we gain, if we be indeed Christians, a brotherhood wide as the family of man, a Father who never dies, and in whom there is no variableness nor shadow of change.

In this way Death becomes the antidote of Death: for how can we look with unmingled horror upon that which has given us such great gifts? The sting of Death, says the Apostle, is sin; and if through death we may be led to piety and charity, then is the sting plucked from the destroyer by his own hand. How can we fear to die, if we are in heart what we are in word? We cannot. The cause of so great horror in our hearts is our want of Christian faith—our partial reception of the truths of this book of good news. Would we disarm, then, the dread power whose icy hand will soon be laid on us all, and on all whom we love, let us strive daily, hourly, momently, to know this book better, to receive its spirit, which is the spirit of God, the Holy Spirit, into our hearts and lives,

so that no hour may be the unexpected one. There is not one here but must part from husband or wife, brother or sister, parent or child, perhaps within the year-perhaps within the week-perhaps before the sun of this day has gone down. It may be that at this moment, in some distant cloud the bolt is gathering, which shall strike to the earth one here present. Is that one prepared to go? Are those who have owed to him or to her the countless offices of love prepared to have him or to have her go? If one were like to be called at some uncertain moment to leave for Europe, he would sit always ready; his sisters would lose their sleep rather than fail in having all prepared. He would ask his father's blessing, and his mother's forgiveness; and each one of the family would strive by slight acts of kindness to atone for past unkindness. But each of us may be called at any moment to leave on a longer journey. Let us sit girded, and let us always, thinking of others as those who may be summoned, try by our looks, our words, our acts, to wipe away all memory of past intolerance, bitterness, neglect and thoughtlessness. Let us not wait; for then, like the foolish virgins who took no oil with their lamps, the hour may come when we least look for it.

Leaves have their time to fall,
And flowers to wither in the north wind's breath,

And stars to set; but all,
Thou hast all seasons for thine own, O Death!

We know when moons shall wane,
When summer birds from far shall cross the sea,

When autum's hue shall tinge the golden grain;
But who shall teach us when to look for thee!

Thou art where billows foam,
Thou art where music mells upon the air;

Thou art around us in our peaceful home,
And the world calls us forth, and thou art thers.

Leaves have their time to fall,
And flowers to wither at the north wind's breath,

And stars to set; but all,
Thou hast all scasons for thine own, O Death! ;

(From the German of Herder.) INTRODUCTION OF THE GOSPEL OF JOHN.

JOHN 1. 1-18.


19. What gave to the beginning of the Gospel of John its peculiar and distinguishing external form, was the very form which the adversaries of Christianity used in their doctrines; they called them "the deeper science,(gnosis.)*

The origin of this name appears from the circumstances of the time: it was in fact the wisdom of an advanced, a new age, which, having its ideas enlarged on every side, sought the new in the old, and drew it out from thence as a deeper knowledge, a hidden, mysterious sense, while in fact it introduced it there itself.

If, for example, the Hebrews introduced and collected in their old sacred books, their wider view of things, which they borrowed from abroad, this was Gnosis, an inner, concealed knowledge; for no common eye could find it there, unless it were shewn it through tradition or revelation. These were the two channels of all Gnosis. The teacher either gave out his higher knowledge as tradition, which he had received from his master, and he from his, till finally the tradition rested in Abraham or Adam; or he believed, like Philo, that he received it in an ecstacy from God himself;-a conception very natural to meditative solitaries, and which might well have occurred to him. This paved the way to Theurgy, and to all manner of active and passive supernatural operations.t

There has been much dispute about Gnosis and Gnostics, from which very little has been made out, because they have not distinguished between the different kinds of Gnosis and the sects of Gnostics; nor have they looked for its sources where they were certainly to be found, in the new, mysterious and higher serse, which they in troduced out of respect for the authority of old scriptures, customs and traditions. This was done by various peoples to various writings and customs: hence the Gno878 was equally various: it became at last, from the circumstances of the time, a mixture of Orphic-Pythagorean-Platonic-Zoroasterian-Jewish ideas, and its forms varied with countries, heads, societies and objects. This course or the stream can be clearly shewn from history: it will resolve all the difficulty respecting the age of the Gnosis. I hope to treat this more at large in a work about " the Spirit of Christianity at its foundation."

+In the dress of the old Grecian Mythology, the way between gods and men was more agreeable and more easy than it could be represented in the personifications of this new abstract mythology. Hence the expressiveness, which characterizes the Neo-Platonic philosophy and poetry, and which no Fabulist, no Theurgist, no founder of mysteries, could ever take away from it: For this Gnosis always remained a hidden, a forced sense, a mixture of old and new times. It was noi now

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »