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lately published anew-the name of this book is “ Learn to die;" and it is full of most comfortable and profitable meditations. On the 28th of June, St. Peter's Eve, feeling rather better, and being very much occupied with his book, he would not let the young man sleep in the house, on purpose that he might be quite to himself. He came, however, in the evening to assist the aged Bishop to bed, and the Bishop told him to come again in an hour, as he wished to read on in this book, of which I was speaking. When the hour was out, the Bishop was still able to go on, and was very anxious, if possible, to finish it, and put off his going to bed for another hour. He found himself, however, unable to read quite to the end of it, and told his friend to mark the place with a tape, and put the book by, and then went to bed, telling the young man to come to him again at seven o'clock in the morning.
At the time appointed the young man came, and found the LORD had taken His aged servant to Himself. The good old man was quite dead : he had been strong enough to close his own eyes, and draw over his face a small white napkin, which he had carefully kept under his pillow for some time, and which his attendant had noticed, though he could not guess what it was for, and did not like to ask. He then had crossed his hands upon his breast, and had fallen asleep”—to use the language of the Bible—without the least struggle. In this state he was found the morning of last St. Peter's Day. The ease, and calmness, and tranquillity with which he died, must have been quite extraordinary. His arms were placed in the most careful way, in the form of the blessed Cross, each hand laid flat on the opposite shoulder.
Such a death seems to me most enviable. It is comfortable, indeed, at such an hour to be supported by the kindness of friends ; but there is surely a more full, and sweet, and perfect consolation, when the Christian falls calmly asleep at last, looking only for comfort and support to Him Who alone can then give it effectually.
This good man had been warned that he was likely to be found dead some morning ; and his answer had always been, that he wished to learn to die alone. Surely he seems to have been watching, to have been ready; for he learnt to make the LORD entirely His support at the hour of death. And we know that
“ Blessed are those servants whom the LORD, when He cometh, shall find watching."
Perhaps some one may be inclined to ask, “ What can I do? I wish I could live and die like this ; but it seems to me I cannot, I find it hard to watch, so hard even to pray.” I cannot now answer this question at length, but I may suggest, first, that if we will do our best, and give ourselves up to God, He is willing and able to work in us to will and to do this, as well as every thing else that is good, of His good pleasure. In Him, therefore, we must put our trust. But we must; on our parts, deter, minedly make every sacrifice, give up every pleasure or pursuit that prevents us from preparing for death. We must make every exertion, for very often the reason why we can do nothing right or good is this, that there are some things we know we ought to do, which we will not do ; and then God is justly displeased, and withdraws His help from us. And then whatever we gain or keep, we are losing our own souls.
3 Luke xii. 37.
4 Phil. ii. 13.
THE LORD AT HAND.
PHILIP. iv. 5.
“ The Lord is at hand.”
Within a week we shall come to that holy and blessed day, on which we have in joyful remembrance the birth of our Lord and SAVIOUR.
It is not without a purpose that the Church has, from the very first, appointed such days and seasons: they are ordained for the intent, that the great and affecting truths connected with them may sink the deeper into our hearts, and have the more influence upon our lives. But it depends on ourselves whether we derive the advantage we ought from them. Undoubtedly, if our hearts and minds are taken up with worldly cares and vain pleasures during these holy seasons, we shall be nothing the better for them, but rather shall be in a more dangerous state, having greater negligence, a greater abuse of mercy, for which to answer at the last.
For why do we all put aside, so far as we can, our common worldly employments on the Lord's Day, and on the other great festivals ? Plainly, it is not that we may spend our time in idleness or amusement; but that we should be the better able to fix our whole attention, for a season at least, on holy and heavenly things.
But, when such a festival as Christmas comes, can we at once, by a single effort, disentangle our minds and set them free from cares and idle thoughts, if we let these at all other times beset and enslave our souls ? Doubtless, it would be impossible. When we have formed habits of any kind, they cannot be shaken off at once like this ; and habits of mind, habits of thought, are, of all other habits, the hardest to alter. And, indeed, what could be more absurd than to suppose that a man could live his working days as a child of this world, and his Sundays and festivals as a citizen of heaven
So that we see that the benefit and edification we shall derive from the observance of great and sacred seasons, depends very much on the kind of life we lead, and the way we train and govern our thoughts at other times, while our hands are necessarily engaged in the common business of life.
But then, it may be asked, is there any one who does not suffer in some degree from his intercourse with worldly men, and from the continual vexations and trials of temper, which are brought upon us by the unreasonable or wicked conduct of persons with whom we have to do in the world? Who is there, again, among the poor, who can keep his mind altogether free from anxious care about the morrow? And the rich, on the other hand, they have the care of preserving wealth, and many temptations to luxury and indulgence. Who amongst them is not the worse for these? Who does not feel his heart at times turn towards earthly, rather than towards heavenly things ? How then can such as we enter into the holy, blessed joy of Christmas ?
One thing we can do, which is to prepare ourselves for the right and sanctifying observance of these festivals before they come. To help us in so doing, the Church has appointed the season of Advent before Christmas, Lent before Easter. And continually, both in her daily lessons out of the Old and New Testaments, and still more in those that are more solemnly read from the Altar, the Church is now calling upon us to be ready to meet our God. At first she summoned us to awake out of the sleep of sin, now the warning has become more distinct and urgent, “ The Lord is at hand,” and “There stands One among you,
know not". For in many ways, even in this life, faithful Christians
may meet their God. They find Christ in the persons of the poor and distressed, when they help them. They find Him present in His most Holy Word, and in the offices of devotion, especially here in His Holy House. In all these things is the LORD at hand, and amongst us. But surely, when on Christmas-day we meet together to join with Angels and Archangels in hallowing the FATHER's thrice holy Name, for that His Son became man, took upon Him our flesh and nature without sin for our deliverance from sin, then, surely, will He be amongst us, though we see Him not; nay, He will be in us, if we try our best that the house of our soul
1 John i. 26.
may be meet to receive Him. To this end, we should endeavour, during this next week, to turn away our hearts from the world and our own selfish pleasures, that they may be fit for our God to dwell in. And, more than this, we should try with all our heart and mind to meditate how great the mercy, how unspeakable the condescension, when God's Only-Begotten Son, the Word, as at this season, became man, that He might restore us poor, fallen, sinful creatures to the state of God's children, and to a blessed hope for the world to come.
Adam, though he was made of the dust of the earth, yet would have lived for ever, free from decay or death, in Paradise, by eating of the Tree of Life. But when he displeased God by eating of that other tree, then he was allowed no more to eat of the tree of life; and the Spirits of Heaven, who had been his friends, and had sung
for joy at the creation, were now to prevent him tasting that food of immortality. But yet, at that very time, God promised him a DELIVERER, One Who would subdue his great enemy; and in Him it was God's purpose he should again find the food of everlasting life. When Christ came, as at this season, it was as The Bread from Heaven, whereof a man should eat and not die ?." He took upon Him our flesh, with all its infirmities, that we by grace, through faith, might be knit into one with Him, made very members of His body, of His fleshi, and of His bones ; that, as He partook of our human nature, so we, through unspeakable grace, should be made partakers of His Divine Nature , His Nature as God. These are great secrets, into which none can enter but such, as, renouncing the world and flesh, will give their minds to holy meditation. Without this we cannot know, no, not even faintly and imperfectly, those blessings, that untold salvation, righteousness, and glory, which
2 John vi. 50.
3 2 Pet i, 4.