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We turn away from the old scenes with a pain that wrings the heart. We know that Nature will bloom again in the summer-time, and cover the earth with flowers, but the refrain that sounds wildly through every fibre of our being is, that
“ The voice of one that is dead
Will never come back to me."
We yearn, oh ! how earnestly, yet in vain, for
“ The touch of a vanished hand,
And the sound of a voice that is still." When Nature is deaf to our cry, though our bosoms are as stormy as the beating of the sea on the crags, it is hard to realize that
“ 'Tis better to have loved and lost,
Than never to have loved at all."
will slowly heal the wound, but never will the traces of it be thoroughly removed. It will fix a new shade of character; it may be a sadder one, but it may also be one that is purer and holier. Like the stone that is raised in remembrance of the departed, which as years roll on will become grey and covered with moss, the words of affection partly worn away-so the grave in our hearts may be covered in after years, and the writing of grief be partly obliterated, but the impression will still be there.
When will the trouble cease? Many will say, only when we meet again in a brighter and better world than this. Partly this is true, but it is a spurious consolation if it lead us to neglect our duty here. It is only in proportion as we feel “it is better for us to be here" because He whose omniscience and never failing love has willed it 80, that our trouble fades away. We must feel, and feel sincerely-however dark and difficult it may be—that “the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away; blessed be the Name of the Lord," before the healing balm can be poured into our wound, and the tears of sorrow gradually cease. Then, being resigned to the Divine will, the blessings of trial will become to us a new source of comfort, and the herald of a deeper religious life.
The changes of the world are variations in the forms of life. So also the soul in the trials we undergo acquires new power and new phases of character. Death is the gate of life, spiritually as well as naturally. Not even the slightest change of feeling but leaves an impression that tends to the development of our being. But with the new growth our dead past must bury its dead. Our reverence for the
dead will remain fixed for ever, according to the fruit it yields. It is not in the winter of our grief that we look for the fruit,—then all is bare and desolate ; it is when time has rolled on, and the tree of life begins anew to bud and blossom. At first we feel only the weight of our trial, and sigh
“Oh! the heavy change now thou art gone,
Now thou art gone, and never must return;" but slowly we shall become reconciled to our lot, and trust in our Father, whose love will never cease.
This trust in God is one of the great fruits of trial. We feel, when we reflect on the past, how feeble are the efforts of man.
In vain was all that we could do, in vain all the skill and service we could procure. God took our loved one away; who could resist His power ? But the Christian feels that God took him in love, and the consciousness will come home to our bosoms that the same love watches over us, and permits us to remain here for our eternal good. A deep faith in God's love is our only refuge from despair, and a trustful heart will feel that, if we serve Him here, He in His own good time will gather us into His arms and take us to that heavenly home where those who are departed are not lost for ever-only gone before.
And this conviction, that death is but the passage to an immortal life, will comfort us in the walk through the valley of the shadow of death. Stoicism, with all its virtue, is not adequate to the occasion. The old Greek, when told of his son's death, might say that “he knew he begat him mortal ;" but the Christian will rejoice to feel that the lost one was an immortal who now,
" like a star, Beacons from the abode where the eternal are." What else can reconcile us to the loss? If there be not an eternity, then the separation is final. Though sorrow and the absence of the lost may sometimes lead to doubt, it is only in our weaker moments. The eye of faith, sooner or later, will pierce through the gloom, and we shall feel
“ So long Thy power hath blessed me, still
Lead Thou me on
The night is gone ;
Which we have loved (so well) and lost awhile." Only awhile, for we yearn, all of us, to be able to meet again those who have gone before. The sympathy we feel for them is the token
of our future reunion. The more we are like, and the more we love, our departed relatives and friends, the more probability is there of the relationship being resumed in heaven; for the associations of heaven are associations of love.
We who are left behind—is there nothing to be pitied in our lot! Yes, watcher on the height ; yes.
There is comfort also. You are not left desolate on a barren land. There yet remain hearts whose pulse beats warm and true. Solitary as you may feel now, there is not only a Father's eye watching over you—the Protector of the widow and the fatherless and every bereaved one-but there are also human friends whose love will comfort you in your distress, and, in time, make the earth smile once more for you. The presence of sorrow and trial calls forth human tenderness, and though every heart “knoweth its own bitterness,” sympathy of friends will not be unavailing. You will thank God that there are many who have not bowed the knee to Baal.
Every day that we pass brings to our remembrance some trait of the departed. At first the feeling is sad, for it reminds us of our loss, but the time will come when these memories will be cherished as our dearest thoughts. For it is not the frailties and the imperfections that recur to us so much as the happy, loving ways that made our life full of joy. These recollections purify the heart. Blessed shall we be if they lead to holier thoughts and deeds.
Our angel-lovers are still with us, though unseen. entered into their rest, into their heavenly home, but it is only a rest from the strife and cares of the world, not a rest of indolence. They are now God's ministering spirits; their love is now with us, watching our growth in spiritual things, and yearning like us for a reunion in heaven. More able to do God's will, they strive to help us to press forward in the way of righteousness, and they find therein their purest joy.
Weary and sad one, now left on earth, wait and be patient. God's ways are not as our ways, nor His thoughts as our thoughts. Seek thy Saviour, for He has said, “Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Trust in the Lord, and believe in His providence, and you will feel that the departed “was not, for God took him." If our life here has been one of resignation to God's will, and devotion to His service, then will He, in His own good time, by the waves of His mercy, bear us to the shore of eternity, to enter those heavenly mansions where dwell the "just made perfect," in the experience of joy and peace, which earth cannot give, and mortals never knew. "I go to prepare a place for you."
“And there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain : for the former things are passed away." —Rev. xxi. 4.
The life of man in the world is a marvellous thing! Man is a wonderful being! The world is the place of man's education, and it is indeed a beautiful school. Great numbers learn very little of what might easily be known; others are in various degrees of advancement compared with the ignorant, the heedless, and the slow; but even the most diligent and the most capacious students in the Divine school know best that they but learn little, compared with the ocean of knowledge that is around them.
“The world is worthy better men.” The world has for its mission to draw out man's faculties, and train them. It is the Lord's exercising court, to prepare His children for His palace, His paradise. All are preparing for a future. The baby is wooed by the sweet endearments of its mother, and of those who love it, to bring its senses into play. The beauty of the world beams upon it on every side. The sunshine, the breezes, the trees, the flowers, the grass, above all the loving faces, the friendly aspects of all around, above, beneath, by night and day, excite its wonder and flood it with delight. The child having been well developed, is prepared for the FUTURE of youth. Education comes, and the world furnishes in abundance the means of knowledge, and of the formation of character. Fresh powers are drawn out at every step; faculties and capabilities are unfolded that had slept in the child; the youth and maiden become matured and ripen, it may be, into noble men and women; these become husbands and wives, fathers and mothers.
The world is still doing its work of education. Circumstances are affording the means of judging between truth and error, right and wrong. The world of God and the Word of God are forming the MAN, of whom the future is the ANGEL.
We have thus traced human growth and education in the world, in which there is always an advancement towards a future ; an apparent disappearance, but no real death. The baby's good nursing has prepared it for its future. The babe disappears, but is really contained
1 Funeral Discourse on J. Finnie, Esq. of Bowdon Lodge, near Manchester, Sunday, Aug. 29, 1875, preached at Palace Gardens Church, Kensington, London, by Rev. Dr. Bayley.
in the youth and the maiden. These have their future, and in good time they enter upon it. The youth and the maiden disappear, but are really contained in the full men and women.
Nothing is lost. So, when a man disappears at what is called death, there is no real death, such as people commonly imagine. It is but translation. We leave the outer body—the house we have inhabited—and rise to higher, fuller life. “If the earthly house of this tabernacle be dissolved, we have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (2 Cor. v. 1). The good man never dies. He progresses and rises to higher life. We place his outward form in the grave, but like his Lord he is not there, he is risen. The earthly body is there, but the spiritual body has risen in power and beauty. God has given him a body as He has pleased Him. “And to every seed his own body" (1 Cor. xv. 38). It is a very interesting thing to notice how constantly Scripture teaches that the good man NEVER dies. When the coming of the Lord Jehovah into the world is described by Isaiah, it is said, “He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces” (xxv. 8). And the Apostle, after the Lord had come, said, “He hath ABOLISHED death, and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Tim. i. 10). Our Lord astonished the worldly-minded of His day by saying, “ If a man keep My saying, he shall NEVER see death” (John viii. 51). The Jews resented this teaching with the bitterest expressions, but the Saviour did not retract His words. To. Martha He said, “I am the Resurrection and the Life. He that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live; and whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall NEVER die” (John xi. 25, 26). In the sixth chapter of John, our Lord says eight times over, in varied forms, that he who receives His Divine Nature, His FLESH AND BLOOD, that is, His Goodness and Truth, is in no danger of death : “I am that Bread of Life ; ” “ This is the Bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and NOT DIE ;” “I am the Living Bread which came down from heaven : if any man eat of this bread, he shall LIVE FOR EVER ;” “Whoso eateth My flesh and drinketh My blood HATH ETERNAL LIFE” (John vi. 48, 50, 51, 54).
Earth is the stage of our transitory career. The poet's words, slightly altered, depict it truly :
“ This world is all a fleeting show,
For time and transit given ;