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FOR THE YEAR 1847.
CONSOLATION FOR CHRISTIAN MOURNERS.
" Wherefore let us comfort one another with these words." Among the heaviest trials to which we efforts of the eye of sense to penetrate it, are exposed in the present life, we must and catch a single glance of their eminclude the removal from us, by death, of ployments, and their glory; then all the objects of our warm affections. Many these thoughts, and multitudes of others, circumstances conspire to give it an espe- rush through the mind, and aggravate, to cially afflictive character. In such cases it the highest degree of intensity, the pang is not mere separation from them that we which separation is itself adapted to have to deplore, but final separation. The produce. bitter and heart-breaking thought rushes In such circumstances the mercy is over the mind, that, in this world, we shall great that we are not forbidden to weep, see them no more, be cheered by their that He who knows our frame, merely presence no more, receive the tokens of enjoins us not to sorrow as those who their love no more that all is now motion- have no hope. The exhortation placed less and cold in those bosoms in which at the head of this paper, and addressed but a short time before, there glowed to the household of faith, implies that its the fire of the tenderest Christian love. members need comfort in such sorrows of
Nor will even the thought that the affliction—that they should mutually aim separation is a final one, account for the to impart it; and the context supplies whole of the anguish we undergo in such them with the means of doing it. cis
On what vantage-ground does the be traced to the fact, that the separation gospel, on this account, place us ? Destihas been effected by death. We should tute of its revelations, were we doubtless feel—most poignantly feel—if pagan philosophers, possessed of powersome disastrous event were to take the ful talent and profound learning, and all friends whom we tenderly love, and place the knowledge of God and eternity which them at the distance of half the globe can be derived from the light of nature, from us, and extinguish all hope of seeing we should be at a loss what to say. We them again, till the great meeting on the might, indeed, remind one another, that last day ; but we should not feel as we death is an inevitable evil-that we do when they are taken from us by deathshould bear our trials with manly fortiThen the thought of all they may have tude—that immoderate grief will not resuffered before the death-pang ceased — store those whose loss we deplore; many the thought that they have entered that such common-place remarks as these world, half disclosed and half concealed, might we utter,—but our words yould in which the state of every human being prove as powerless to heal the wounded is fixed for ever--the thought, here, that spirit, as the falling rain to melt a mass all intercommunion with them has finally of marble. How thankful should we be closed—that a veil so impenetrable di- that the gospel teaches a more excellent vides them from us, as to defy the keenest way, not merely enjoining us to comfort
one another, but instructing us how to do, veil over the repulsive part of the scene. it-that it says to us,
“ Comfort one an- He would not have us ignorant concernother with these words ;" so that the ing them that are ASLEEP. meanest Christian peasant may be a bet- We need scarcely be reminded that ter friend, in the hour of trial, than the this language refers exclusively to the most enlightened pagan philosopher. state of the body after the change bas
The words to which the apostle refers come. The soul neither dies nor sleeps. exhibit the present happy condition of Set free from this prison of its clay, it departed Christian friends, and the bless- ascends to be with Jesus, which is far edness which awaits them at the revela- better. Upon the body, however, the tion of Jesus Christ. They are powerfully original sentence must take effect, for adapted to inspire comfort, because, flesh and blood cannot inherit the king
First,— They assure us, that, how dis- dom of heaven. The body dies; or, in tressing soever, in one of its aspects, the the language of the apostle, the body changed condition of our departed Chris- sleeps. It is impossible to suggest a more tian friends may be, they have yet only suitable, expressive, or soothing reprefallen asleep-fallen asleep in Jesus! “Isentation of death. During sleep we are would not have you to be ignorant, bre- unconscious of the employments, and even thren, concerning them which are asleep." of the existence of those who immediately “ Them also which sleep in Jesus will surround us. They may be within the God bring with him.”
range of vision, but we see them not; they The same beautiful and consoling re- may speak to us, but we hear them not: presentation of death is presented by our they may be convulsed with grief, yet we Lord himself: “Our friend Lazarus are insensible to their sorrows; they may sleepeth,” said he to the disciples; “I go bound with joy, yet we share not in their that I may awake him out of sleep.” delights. Thus is it with the body wben
Much wisdom and mercy are displayed the immortal spirit has taken its flight to in this delightful representation of death. the world above. The tongue is sealed The world, it is said, is governed by up in silence, and the eyes in darkness. names; and there can be no doubt that The heart has ceased to beat, and the the same substantial idea, presented in lungs to play. The blood has been ardifferent forms of language, will produce rested in its course, and driven back to a very different impression upon the the centre of the system. The nerves, mind. Suppose we were told, without which had conveyed impressions to the figure, with no gentleness and delicacy, brain, have been rendered incapable of that a beloved relative, whom we were action. The brain itself has become a hastening to meet, was dead, and that mass of unorganized matter; while total the mortal remains had begun to see unconsciousness seizes upon every part corruption--the feeling produced by this of that beautiful fabric, so lately instinct representation of death would be distress- with life, and with the most acute sensiing in the extreme. How soothing the bility. The death of the body is a state statement of the apostle—the beloved of perfect unconsciousness, and not less so one has gently fallen asleep in Jesus ! is sleep. And yet we can behold our Notwithstanding the bright and cheering friends, in this latter condition, without prospects unfolded by the gospel, there is the slightest emotion; we can see them something in death appalling to our na- fully bereft, for the time, of the faculties ture. We shudder at the idea of de- of hearing, seeing, &c., without shedding scending into the grave, and becoming a single tear. And why? Because we there the companion and the prey of believe that consciousness is suspended worms; and, therefore, our Heavenly merely, not destroyed; because we know Father, with more than a father's com- that they will wake again, regaining the passion for our infirmities, has thrown a possession of all their senses, in no degree enfeebled, but invigorated, by this their cherish too strong a confidence that the temporary oblivion. Of this powerful body will at length shake off the slumbers source of consolation all Christians are of the tomb, and awake to a state of conpossessed when beloved relatives fall sciousness, activity, and joy, on which asleep in Jesus,-for,
eternity will be inscribed by the finger of Secondly,—The words to which the God himself, since the apostle represents apostle directs us assure us that their this fact as resting on the same evidence sleep is temporary, not eternal—that con- with that which substantiates the resursciousness is not more truly destroyed in rection of Christ himself : “ If we believe death, than in sleep. They assure us that that Jesus died and rose again, even so our friends will wake again : “If we be- them also which sleep in Jesus will God lieve that Jesus died and rose again, even bring with him.” “If we believe !”– so them, also, which sleep in Jesus, will Could, then, the apostle mean to intimate, God bring with him.”—“The Lord him- that the resurrection of men depended self shall descend from heaven with a upon the faith we repose in the resurrecshout, with the voice of the archangel, tion of Christ? By no means. Whether and with the trump of God; and the we believe or not that Jesus died and dead in Christ shall rise first."
rose again, it still remains a fact, that Additional testimony in support of our all who sleep in Jesus will God bring faith in this delightful doctrine we have with him. The apostle merely intended in the language of our Lord : “ This is to teach, that the two events are so inthe Father's will that sent me, that of all dissolubly united that if we believe the which he hath given me I should lose one to be certainly past, we may believe nothing, but should raise it up again at the other to be certainly future. If we the last day.” And, though one assur- believe that Jesus died and rose again, ance of our Lord ought to be sufficient to we may believe that all who sleep in banish all doubt, we have that assurance Jesus will God bring with him. repeated over and over again : “I will The ground of this connexion-largely raise him up at the last day ;"_"Whoso unfolded, 1 Cor. xv. 12, 13, 20—is, that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, gracious and sovereign constitution by hath eternal life, and I will raise him up virtue of which Christ and his people are at the last day.”
considered and treated as if they were It is chiefly because the bodies of the one; a constitution which appointed Him Lord's people are neither destroyed, nor to be the Head of His mystical body, and reduced to a state of everlasting uncon- in consequence of which all He did is sciousness, when the spirit takes its tem- considered as though it had been done porary departure, that the death of the by them. When He rose again, they body is exhibited by the beautiful figure virtually rose again ; and they may be of which we have spoken ; and it is fur- said to be now sitting in heavenly places ther the confidence which the employ- in Christ Jesus. ment of this figure affords us, that the The time of this deliverance from the sleep of the body will be temporary bondage of the tomb is stated by the merely, that awakens the joy we feel in apostle ;-it will be effected when the seeing the death of the body thus exhi- Lord himself shall descend from heaven bited; for the redemption of the body with a shout. Upon the manner of their from the bondage of the tomb is one of deliverance, or the kind of bodies with the most fondly-cherished hopes of the which we are to rise, the apostle, in this people of God. That redemption will be passage, does not enter. This is not, the consummation of their blessedness, however, a subject of regret, since he has leaving them nothing to ask, nothing to discoursed largely upon this point in desire, nothing to enjoy. And, let it be 1 Cor. xv. From that chapter we learn remembered, that it is impossible to that the resurrection body of the people of God will be an incorruptible body, -a tion; though sown in dishonour, they glorious, powerful, and spiritual body; shall be raised in glory; though sown in and, if more were needed to awaken weakness, they shall be raised in power; unbounded delight in prospect of the though sown with natural bodies, they honour which is to be put upon the infe- shall be raised with spiritual bodies. rior parts of our nature, we should find it “ Wherefore let us comfort one another in the following declaration : “ For our with these words." conversation is in heaven, from whence, Thirdly,—The words of the apostle are also, we look for the Saviour, the Lord words of comfort, because they assure us Jesus Christ: who shall change our vile that those of our Lord's faithful friends body, that it may be fashioned like unto who shall be found asleep at his coming, his glorious body, according to the work- shall not be permitted to suffer any dising whereby he is able even to subdue all advantage on that account: “ For this we things unto himself," Phil. iii. 20, 21. say unto you by the word of the Lord,
This change is not to be viewed as the that we which are alive, and remain until mere result of necessity, though it is its the coming of the Lord, shall not prevent, result," for flesh and blood cannot inherit or go before them which are asleep," the kingdom of heaven." It is to be i. e., shall not be caught up to meet the chiefly regarded as constituting one por- Lord in the air before them. tion of the reward which Christ will Now, had it not been for this express and bestow upon all who maintain the begin- merciful declaration, it is possible that our ning of their confidence stedfast unto the unbelief might have suggested the fear as end. And surely the prospect of bearing it appears to have actually done in the a visible and eternal resemblance to our case of the persons to whom the apostle cxalted and glorified Head, while we shall / wrote) that those, whom our descending know Ilim as we would, and love Him as Lord shall find asleep when he comes we ought, should wipe the tear of sorrow with the voice of the archangel, will be from every eye.
in less favourable circumstances than the Let us not, then, Christian friends, living members of the family. We are sorrow as those who have no hope, when too prone to judge of the Redeemer by those whom we loved are taken away ourselves; and, though I trust the old from us. Strictly speaking, they are not adage, “ Out of sight out of mind," is not dead; they sleep merely-sleep in Jesus, exactly verified in us, yet, because we are under his gracious and omnipotent pro- apt to feel a deeper interest in our Christection ! And let us not forget that tian friends when, being present, they their sleep will not be eternal. The may be considered as practically urging moment is at hand when they shall be their claims to our sympathy and tenderroused from their slumbers, and springness, we are ready to imagine it must be up in all the vigour and activity of reno- so with our gracious Lord himself. But, vated existence. If distressed by the be assured, it is not so.
How prone thought-as how can we be otherwise ?- soever we may be to forget one another, that their precious remains are lying in a when separated for any considerable dishonoured state in the grave, let us period of time, nothing can efface from draw comfort from the cheering fact that the heart of the Redeemer the rememJesus guards the dust of his people, that brance of any of his people. When He every particle rests unier his protection, shall come again to gather them to himand that, when he shall rescue bis re- self, not a single member of that body deemed ones from the tomb, they will sleeping in the dust of the earth shall be emerge from its caverns in a much purer forgotten or overlooked. Even the huurand glorious state, than that in which bleet and weakest believer, though he they entered it. Though sown in cor- may have been despised by men, and ruption, they shall be raised in incorrup, I little regarded by his Christian brethren,
will engage the particular notice of our joice, and be glad in hiin." " Wherefore let glorious descending Lord. His first care us comfort one another with these words." will be to collect the dust of his people, Fourthly,—The words are adapted to every atom of which is incomparably inspire comfort, because they assure us more precious in his sight than the whole that, at the period alluded to, the meeting of the remaining material universe. And between the Saviour and the entire comso far is it from being true that the living pany of the redeemed will be the prelude friends of the Saviour will supersede his to a union which eternity itself will not sleeping ones in his esteem and regard, be able to dissolve. After the trump of that the rapture of those who are alive God shall have sounded, and the graves and remain connot be effected, till those of the sleeping members of the family whom death holds in its fetters shall have shall have been opened, and they shall been freed from their ignoble and tem- have put on incorruptible bodies; after porary captivity. Those who are alive those who may be alive and remain shall and remain shall not prevent, or go be- have been changed; after all this, the fore, them that sleep. " For the trumpet apostle says that the whole company of shall sound, and the dead shall be raised the redeemed shall be caught up togetber incorruptible.” “ The Lord himself shall to meet the Lord in the air. There will descend from heaven, with a shout, and he fix his seat, the glorious and dreadwith the voice of the archangel, and ful seat of judgment; and thither shall with the trump of God, and the dead in they be conducted, flying, as it were, in Christ shall rise first;" that is, not before clouds, and stationed on the Judge's right the ungodly dead, but before those who hand, that they may join all the holy part shall be alive and remain are caught up of the creation in their expressions of asto meet the Lord in the air, if not pre- sent to the righteousness of that sentence vious to their transformation.
which dooms all the impenitent to everlastSurely there is much and precious con- ing destruction from the presence of the solation in these words for
Lord. We shall meet the Lord in the air. the loss of those who are not dead but And this meeting, let it be remembered, gone before. How delightful the reflec- will not be an accidental or transient one, tion, that, if their name, and character, which, how much soever it might overand worth should gradually fade from power us with its glory, would bring disthe memory of their contemporaries, and appointment by its speedy termination. even leave, in time, a diminished impres- On the contrary, it is to be the commencesion upon our own, that there is one ment of the most blessed intercourse and heart to whom they will continue as dear communion with the Saviour which can as ever,--one being who will retain as know no change. Hence the apostle lively a recollection of them as ever, — says,
“ And so shall we be ever with the that when the Redeemer shall descend Lord." Ah! this it is that constitutes the from heaven with a shout, not even the bliss of heaven. If on earth, where we songs of his august attendants, nor the see him not, we rejoice in him with joy corresponding hallelujahs of those who unspeakable and full of glory, what must are alive, welcoming his arrival, will be our transport in heaven?make him forget that band of faithful
“ To be with him, to taste his love, friends whose voice is sealed up by the Is the full bcaven enjoy'd above; hand of death. How delightful the reflec- And the sweet expectation now tion that that will be the period of their
Is the young dawn of heaven below.” emancipation, and that, recovering at To be with Christ is to be rescued, and once their liberty and their powers of finally rescued, from all sorrow, as well speech, they will join in the general as sin; for they who shall be privileged chorus of the redeemed, “This is our to gain access to the world in which he God, we have waited for him; we will re- dwells “shall hunger no more, neither