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at every period, it is always to be remembered, that life itself must one day terminate; the scene of trial must pass away; every relation, merely human, must vanish in death; and the Christian will therefore desire at all times to view the opportunities and transactions of this lower world, just as they will rise to his recollection and his conscience at the time of his separation from it.
Whatever be the life men lead, none probably are so lost to reason as not to desire a peaceful close at their last hour; as not to form the well-known wish of Balaam, "Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his." Fatal, however, and but too common inconsistency! to desire the end of the righteous, without preparing for it. Of all practical errors, none is more easy to confute, yet none so hard to overcome, as the belief that a preparation for death is by no means necessary, or may be safely delayed. We would awaken your earliest thoughts and best powers to this important work. We would humbly second the voice of God himself; and "so teach you to number your days, that you may apply your hearts unto wisdom."
The subject, though plain, is of the deepest importance; and will lead us, in connexion with the text, and the passage preceding it, to view the Christian in the last stage of his earthly course, the closing scene of his eventful trial. Many doubtless the Apostle had beheld in the parting struggle. Being "shortly," as he declares, about to "put off this his tabernacle," he sustains himself, and his surviving hearers, with the same blessed hope which had animated their first career. He addresses them as those who had "obtained like precious faith" with him, "through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ." He exhorts them, "beside all this, giving all diligence, add to your
faith, virtue; and to virtue, knowledge; and to knowledge, temperance; and to temperance, patience; and to patience, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruit ful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ." Having, then, reproved the absence of these things, as a proof of blindness, forgetfulness, and a return to old sins, he concludes," Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure; for, if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: for so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ."
Let us then, taking an enlarged view of the whole passage, learn from it,
I. The Christian's preparation for death; and,
II. His hope in death.
I. In making a due preparation for death, two things are especially needful. The first is "a state of pardon and acceptance with God;" the other, "a meetness for the heavenly inheritance." The one entitles us to an admission into bliss; the other qualifies us for its enjoy
ment. The one restores us to the favour of God, which by sin we had forfeited; the other to his image, which we had lost. For both we must look to God alone. By the blood of Christ is procured the hope of our acceptance with God; by the Spirit of Christ we obtain a meetness for his heavenly kingdom. We are redeemed by Christ from all our guilt-by the Spirit, through obedience, we are gradually restored to purity of heart-and so, through an abundant perseverance to the end, we obtain the blessing of the pure in heart, which is, to see God.
Let us consider these points, as severally contained in the passage before us.
1. First, faith is mentioned :.
"To them that have obtained like precious Faith with us."-"The first coming unto God," says our Church, "is through faith." It is this which draws us near to Christ, and brings us home to God. It is that evidence which powerfully wins our regard to things not seen, and is as the substance of our eternal hopes. It carries the outward knowledge of God, of Christ, and of His will, to the inmost soul. It leads the penitent sinner, conscious of his own guilt and transgression, to "the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ:" and it is further intimated by the Apostle, to be the effect of Divine power within the heart, strongly enforcing the call to "glory and virtue;" and applying to itself the exceeding great and precious promises given to us through Jesus Christ; and thus making us partakers of the Divine nature.
2. This leads me next to speak of obedience as forming our qualification, or meetness, for the heavenly inheritance: "Giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue."The Christian regards salvation as a deliverance from sin itself, no less than from its consequences; and, in the exceeding great and precious promises of God's word, he has no less respect to those of His grace for subduing sin, than to those of His mercy in pardoning it. In looking forward to heaven he sees nothing there but universal holiness, spotless purity, and unchanging love. He looks into the word of God, and sees, in the very passage before us, the character corresponding to his hopes; and hence he learns to sanctify every faculty and disposition of his soul, betimes, to his Master's service. "To virtue" he adds "knowledge." He studies the true wisdom, which, coming from above, leads thither; and lays a solid foundation for right conduct in clear, sound, and indisputable principles." To knowledge" he adds "temperance." He denies himself every forbidden indulgence, though dear to him as a
right eye; and would enter into life halt and maimed, rather than, having two hands or two feet, be cast into everlasting fire." To temperance" he adds “ patience." He sooths present ill with future hope; turns complaint into prayer, then prayer into praise; and so gives to patience her perfect work, that he may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing." To patience" he adds "godliness. He directs all the powers of his soul to its one true object, which is to serve and honour its Author and its Redeemer.-" To godliness" he adds "brotherly kindness." He gives his first regards to those who are linked with him in the dearest ties; and more espe cially to them that are of the household of faith. But he does not forget to add "to brotherly kindness, charity;" that heavenly principle which assimilates him to Christ, and unites him to his fellowcreatures of every nation, and name, and colour; to the meanest sufferer; nay, to his most unrelenting enemy.
3. The Christian believes, and obeys with perseverance. things remain in him and abound:" to which it is added, "If ye do these things, ye shall never fall.”As the Christian seeks an abundant entrance into the everlasting kingdom, so does he aspire to bring forth here an abundant production of good fruit, preparatory to the final harvest. He remembers the admonitions of our blessed Lord; "He that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved"— "Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life." And he desires" not to be of them who draw back unto perdition, but of them that believe to the saving of the soul."
II. Let us now more particularly look to the Christian's hope in death.
Before the coming of Christ, believers saw but afar off. They had not received the fulfilment of the promises, on which they nevertheless rested: and they beheld with only an obscure and inquiring glance, beforehand, the sufferings
of Christ, and the glory that should follow. But to us life and immortality have been brought to light through the Gospel. Ancient prophecies have received their glorious fulfilment. In entering into covenant with God through faith in Jesus Christ, we, in a measure, already "enter into rest." Through obedience to his commands, we become the subjects of his earthly kingdom; and we are taught to look forward in death to an entrance ministered abundantly" into heaven itself; where are the Throne of God, and the bright and visible display of his everlasting glories.
On our entrance into the earthly kingdom of Christ our Saviour, much of imperfection, fear, and sorrow, cleaves to us: and none can duly estimate, but the watchful Christian himself, how many hardships and discouragements await his course of present trial. But he hopes hereafter to pass the everlasting doors," and to "enter in through the gates into the city."In the hour of nature's last weakness, he is encouraged to look up to the Fountain of strength; and, in the darkness of the shadow of death, to behold the glory that shall be revealed. He regards, indeed, not without awful seriousness the approaching conflict: but he remembers that it is the last; and he. meets it clothed with the whole armour of God, and led on to vic. tory by the Captain of bis salvation. "I know," says he, "whom I have believed;" and he humbly desires to be able to pursue the Apostolic language; "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord the righteous Judge shall give me at that day." Even as respects the final terrors of the judgment hour, his mind fixes upon Him who is at once the "righteous Judge" and the “ prevailing Advocate;" and, having confessed Christ openly before men, he trusts to be confessed by Him before His Father, and before the holy angels.
He places himself in joyful anticipation amidst his triumphant followers; and pursues in heart that high and holy way through which his Saviour, "travelling in the greatness of his strength," shall conduct him onward to the Throne of God.
There the conflict shall cease, all imperfection shall vanish, and every cloud of darkness and doubt, of sin and temptation, shall be done away for ever. no night there." There shall be consequence of trangression shall Every former be banished from those blessed abodes. "There shall be no more curse... And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorbe any more pain; for the former row, nor crying, neither shall there things shall have passed away."
And to the absence of evil shall be added in heaven the blessedness of positive enjoyment. "He that sat upon the Throne said, Behold, dant entrance of the righteous into I make all things new." The abunheaven shall consist in the blessed sight and full enjoyment of God Himself. "They shall see his face, and His name shall be in their foreheads."-Sights of bliss, and sounds of rapture shall be familiar to their senses: "I, Jobn, saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven, saying, Behold the tabernacle of God is with men: and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people; and God Himself shall be with them, and be their God."-Health and refreshment shall mingle in their lot: "And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the Throne of God and the Lamb. In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of
the nations." - Lastly, dominion shall be added to bliss, and glory to victory: They were seen "clothed with white robes, and with palms in their hands. And they shall reign for ever and ever."
But I will not vainly attempt to measure what is boundless, and to fathom eternity; let me, in conclusion, turn your attention to what is more expressly of practical application. The descriptions given us in Scripture, are designed, not to inflame the imagination, but to teach and improve the heart; not to transport us in a moment of fancied elevation heyond the bounds of space and time, but to accompany us to the most ordinary scenes of duty, to control our daily thoughts and most active habits of life. They are intended habitually to turn our minds from earthly things to heavenly; to shame us out of our regard to the false and perishing idols of this world; and to fix us to what is substantial, eternal, and divine. Above all, they are intended to direct us to the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ: and to exalt our views of that Divine Being, who once came as a humble sojourner on earth, to minister to all, and to die for all; but who shall appear the second time without sin unto salvation. And great as His final triumph will be, when He shall subdue all things unto Himself; perhaps to the eye of faith that is scarcely a less triumph which is now visible upon earth, when a single soul, upheld through Divine grace in the near prospect of dissolution, and under all the weakness and languor of mortal decay, is enabled to pierce the darkness of the shadow of death; and steadfastly to look up, and by faith behold the glory that shall be revealed.
To the Editor of the Christian Observer.
I AM One of those, who feel as liberally towards all real Christians, let them be of what denomination
they please, as any man breathing can possibly do; and I fully believe that I could live all my days with any pious Dissenter, who has the same temper of mind towards Churchmen, in a spirit of uninterrupted harmony. At the same time Iama truly zealous Churchman, and I do most heartily approve of what some of your correspondents have written respecting the regular performance of the Church Service. Occasional alterations in the course of our liturgical forms, however good they may be in themselves; observations inserted in reading the lessons, however appropriate and terse they may be; extempore prayers before sermon however short, neat, and spiritual; all appear to me to be exceptionable in this view, that they are breaches of regular order, and, to say the least, are very like violations of solemn subscription. Not to insist upon the prejudices which these things raise in some well disposed minds, they certainly set an example of irregurity; and if the clergy are not regular in the desk, communion rail, and pulpit, with what appearance of propriety, or at all events with what probable effect can they call their clerks, pew-openers, sextons, &c. to account for any innovations they may introduce, or omissions they may choose to make?
I am, however, entering more largely into this question than I intended. Till I read the paper signed C. C. in your Number for March, often as I have performed the Communion Service, I had never been led to suspect that any difference was intended between "alms" and "oblations." Replete as our forms are with such expressions as "praises and thanksgivings," "supplications and prayers," and various other duplicate terms, (if I may invent a phrase,) I had always considered these two words as intend
ing one and the same thing; namely
our donations at the sacramental table, which are alms to man, but oblations to God. Some, however, think differently it seems, and even
appear to have a scruple on the one hand respecting the use, and on the other respecting the omission, of the term "oblations." I conceive, sir, that no person who considers the word oblations in the sense supposed by your correspondent C. C. needs scruple for a moment in omitting it; for what the rubric says concerning both must surely apply to each by itself; "If there be no alms and oblations," (which is frequently the case in country places,)" then shall the words, of accepting our alms and oblations,' be left unsaid." From whence I infer, by parity of reason, that if either of these two things, (supposing them to be two, which, however, I do not believe,) be wanting, the term expressing that one is to be left unsaid and the other term to be used. Earnestly desiring that we all may be spiritual, without spiritual pride; and attentive to form, without formality; I am, &c.
R. C. H.
To the Editor of the Christian Observer. As every question relating to the due celebration of public worship, must be in its degree interesting, I beg leave to offer a few remarks on the word OBLATIONS, in the prayer for the whole state of Christ's church.
In your note on C. C.'s letter, in your Number for April, you present the substance of a paper in which though the writer contends that the word oblations may properly be retained, in the meaning given to it by Wheatly and Bishop Patrick, namely the elements of bread and wine offered to God, he yet expresses a doubt whether that meaning may not be unfounded. Your correspondent's doubt, I humbly conceive, could only arise from Wheatly's want of clearness in expressing what it was his purpose to state, and from his indistinct notice of a circumstance which serves particularly to throw light upon the expression in question. This expression was first introduced into
the prayer, at the last revision, at the Restoration. The prayer as it stands in the first Prayer-book of Edward VI. mentions neither alms nor oblations. In the subsequent modification, alms alone was inserted, and so it continued until the year 1661; when the revisers gave the prayer its present form.
From this state of the case, it is, in the first place, obvious, that the addition" and oblations" can be referred to no obsolete practice. What therefore your correspondent C. C. has said, of the propriety of omitting the word oblations because ministers of the Church of England had long refrained from availing themselves of offerings at the sacrament, has no shadow of foundation. An expression adopted for the first time in 1661, can have no relation to an antiquated custom.
The circumstance which Mr. Wheatly ought more expressly to have mentioned, is that the revisers in 1661 were chiefly guided in their modifications by the Liturgy which had been sent down to Scotland, in the year 1637. Bishop Mant, in the introduction to his Comment on the Prayer-book, appears to have stated the fact exactly as it was. "In the Scotch Common Prayer Book," he says, "there were several improvements made; some of which were taken into the last review, and more might have been so, but that the nation was not disposed to receive them, the distempers of the late times having prejudiced many against it."
The extent in which this remark applies, may be seen at once by laying the three Prayer-books together; the Prayer book as it stood before the revision; the Scotch Prayer - book; and the Prayer-book as we now have it.
In the passage in question, it will be found, that the unrevised Prayerbook, in the rubric before the prayer for the whole state of Christ's Church, says nothing of the sacramental elements, but is wholly occupied with the " poore men's boxe," and "the due and accus