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joy and felicity; till our bodies, raised from the dust new, immortal, glorious — shall again receive their kindred spirits, and “ live for ever with the Lord, through Jesus Christ! 0 Thou gracious Spirit of power and holiness, prepare me for that hour, which shall deliver us all out of the miseries of this sinful world ; and from the storm and tempest of the present life bear me to the still calm waters of that life, for which we look in the world that is to come!!
1 Various are the uses of adversity, when sanctified by a Christian view of the dispensation. The successive trials of life, indeed, are chiefly intended to wean our souls from the fear and love of the world, and fix their first great aim upon the kingdom of God and his righteousness. They have another object also. Whilst they work patience to God's will, so long as He see fit for his own glory and our own final welfare to afflict us, they make us even long for that hour, which shall deliver us from their misery; and they reconcile us to the death of others : for if to the good, death be gain, we mourn, not them, but ourselves. This is clear to our own apprehension. Where christian hope abides, there poverty, sickness, disappointment, pain, misery-all such sorrows unite in smoothing our passage to the grave, and give to death a welcome. Are light and darkness in plain contrast? Lo! the contrast of one dying, patient amid the miseries of penury, and pain, and desolateness, and of one whom death overtakes, trusting to the smiles and enjoyments of prosperity! “ O death, how bitter is the remembrance of thee to a “ man that liveth at rest in his possessions ! unto the man that hath
nothing to vex him, and that hath prosperity in all things.” Not so to the strugglers and sufferers in the world's sore strife! “O “ death ! acceptable is thy sentence unto the needy, and unto him “ whose strength faileth, that is now in the last age, and is vexed “ with all things *.” His soul, patient to the end, so long as his heavenly Father sees fit to lay his heavy hand upon him, yet is ready to change misery for rest. And must we not give hearty thanks unto God, that He hath delivered our suffering brother out the miseries of this sinful world, and granted a death of peace to a life of warfare?
* Ecclus. xli. 2.
66 O merciful God
That we fail not the high and happy hopes to which the last prayer encouraged us to look, bearing every thought far above the world, its joys and its sorrows, and sustaining us even in our deep dark sorrow at the grave—the Church anxiously now directs us to pray for means that we may each individually attain that state of faith and holiness, 66 without which no man shall see the Lord 1.” The Collect supplied for this purpose is a supplication for such a saving faith in Him St. Paul would seem as though he invited his dear Philippians to prepare themselves for this thankfulness on his own behalf, when he declares, that however resigned he is to the trials of life, so long as it may please God to give him life, yet death is that he looks to as his gain. Active in every good word and work, and conscious that such being “ the fruit of his labour while he liveth in the flesh,” he is a blessing to his brethren in Christ Jesus, and a setter-forth of the glory of his God; and that, therefore, it is good for him still to abide in the flesh-yet he at once declares, whilst “to live is Christ, to die is gain ;” and that “to depart is far better *."
It may be, that some child of sorrow opens these pages.—Your bright morning sun of life has set in clouds. It is not that age has dimmed your joys ; or that you have pain for ease, and infirmities for strength and activity. That change must be to all who live long. Your sufferings are from other causes. You once had competence; perhaps wealth, perhaps greatness : you now are poor and unknown. Fame was yours, and honour among men : now, like Job,“ your day is darkness ; and the shadow of death staineth it." Children and dear friends once blessed you : death hath removed the one, change the other. Your sorrows press you sore. Alas! is it so ? Then comes the Gospel voice of consolation to you, in all its force, and with all its soothings—“ Lift up the hands that hang down, and the feeble knees !” God in his own good time will deliver you, and death itself be welcome.
| Phil, i. 23.
* Heb. xii. 13.
who alone is the Lord of life, spiritual and eternaleven Jesus Christ himself, “the resurrection and the life”-as may change our mourning into joy. In Him we have the blessed hope of a resurrection to life eternal; seeing that though with the Saviour we yield our bodies, as He did, to death, none shall die eternally who live in Him and believe in Him, and die in Him. Henceforward, therefore, what is the object which wisdom bids us hold ever in our view? what the blessing to which piety meekly bends her prayer, for herself and for all whom she loves ? Is it not “that life of righteousness,” to which “ we beseech thee, O Father, from the death of sin to raise us?” If the prayer be mercifully heard and graciously answered, away with unworthy fears of death! Who shall dare to doubt, but that if we be thus raised spiritually, we shall be raised eternally ? and “ that when we shall depart this life, we may rest in Him, as our hope is, our departed” loved one rests? Nay, brighter still is our prospect. That Rest will be Bliss. Whoso is found standing clothed in the righteousness of Christ, shall he not“ be found acceptable in thy sight," O merciful God? We plead the blood of the Son which was shed for sinners; we plead the mercy of the Father, which gave the Son to die for us; we plead the agony of that Redeemer—his passion—his death—for pardon, reconciliation, and peace; and finally we plead not his resurrection only as an earnest of our own, but also his ascension into heaven, with his assurance, that He ascended thither “to prepare a place for us?."—By all these pleas we cheer our drooping hearts, and in the strength of a heavenly trust—for it rests upon hea
1 John xiv. 3.
venly promises—we live in the firm hope that, at the hour of death, Thou, O Lord, our strength and our Redeemer wilt be with us, and even in the day of judgment wilt deliver us. O the coming of that day! Terror to thine enemies ! To thy faithful servants, joy! joy beyond our minds to conceive! The Son of man shall come in his glory, and all his holy angels with him : before Him shall be gathered all nationsthe loved one you mourn, and you yourself among the myriads so gathered. To the good, how joyous the anticipation of that hour, when, as pardon and accept
have been here the recompense of penitence and faith in Christ Jesus, power and honour and glory shall be the crowning of their hope in sharing for ever the kingdom of their God! O gracious Father ! the mind cannot conceive mercy so great, bounty so vast, love so unbounded. Can it be, that we—worms and no men; we, sinners in our thoughts, and imperfect at best in our resolves—can it be, that we, dust and ashes, are at last to be so exalted ? shall we in very
deed be raised from the depth of sin and mortality to holiness so pure, and immortality so glorious, that never again shall the one dim? never again the other change ? and is all this secured to the faithful in the everlasting covenant sealed by the blood of the Lamb of God, slain “ from the foundation of the world,” and “prepared for us from the beginning thereof? Well may my heart, even in its sadness, rejoice. Well may my soul triumph. Lo the welcoming! “ Come, ye blessed children of my Father, receive the kingdom !" " Well done, thou good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.” “Smitten down like the grass,” by the stroke of
death, which has cut off one so dear-yet must not my heart be afraid ! The dead shall rise again ; and the good shall pass to a land of rest, where “
eye “ hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor hath it entered “ into the heart of man to conceive the good things “ which God hath prepared for them who love him.” Thus, to everlasting life, death is the appointed way. O my soul ! fear not thyself to walk therein; nor sorrow as men without hope, for those who tread that path before thee! The trials of life pass away; the pains of death cease; the dark drear stillness of the grave shall once again be broken ; this mortal shall put on immortality; sorrow and pain shall be known no more; but heavenly joys shall never end; to the drear silence of death shall succeed everlasting songs of praise; and by the mingling and according voices of angels and the spirits of the just made perfect, shall for ever be raised in heaven the triumphant strain—“Hallelujah! the Lord God omnipotent reigneth!" Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah-Amen!
THE APOSTOLIC BENEDICTION.
grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Ghost, be with us all evermore. Amen."
Into the mourner's heart—with every feeling softened, every thought spiritualized, every desire sanctified—the closing benediction of this service cannot but sink deep : quickening a dormant repentance, confirming a wavering resolution, leading to a bold avowal of faith, and by divine aid so influencing to holy virtue, that though he sow in tears, he shall reap
Where are the wildering thoughts which agitated his soul, when his steps bore him to the grave,