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us, and that we suffer the sound of death to go by us like the idle wind, of which we take no notice. And yet, to human contemplation, what can be more awful and impressive than the change from life to death! What a difference between the dead and the living friend! What a difference between man thinking, acting, moving about in the world, and man, lying still and quietly the grave! What a difference between the mind pregnant with thought and fancy and feeling, and the unconscious, unimpressible dust of the earth! Heedless, however, as we, for the most part, are to the daily repeated instructions and warnings of the great teacher, Death, there are times and seasons when our indifference can no longer be maintained, and we are compelled by the force of our natural sympathies to be serious and thoughtful. It is not easy for a man in whose breast there have lived any of the charities and endearments of life, to stand by the grave of a beloved friend and companion, and hear pronounced over him the solemn words which consign his body to the ground, without the presence and consciousness of thoughts and emotions the tendency of which is to purify and exalt. There can be few persons now before me who do not know what it is to mourn the loss of some one whom they loved and valued, -of some one whose friendship had been dear to them, and whose sympathy and counsels had been the blessing and comfort of their lives. To such I would say, can you forget the feelings which then rose up in your hearts, the pure and unearthly thoughts which then filled and occupied your minds? What was the world to you then? What
did you then think of its vanities and follies, of its hollow and fugitive joys, of its treacherous and deceitful allurements ? For a moment, at least, the awful shadow of eternity must have come over you, blotting out the eaner passions and interests of time, and giving to the hopes of heaven, and the desire of the divine favour and approbation, the predominant sway over your inclinations and purposes. This is one way in which the dead sometimes speak, with power and effect, to the hearts of the living.
The mere contemplation of death, however, apart from those Christian views and expectations with which it should ever be connected, would be a dismal and depressing employment, paralyzing the spirit of virtuous activity, and imparting to our natures a tone of melancholy dejection and despair. Were it indeed a final event,—the goal of our short career in this world, and leading to nothing beyond,-better would it be to turn our eyes away from it, and to think of it as little as possible. But regarded, as we are taught to regard it, as the gate which, while it closes upon the present world, opens into another and a better,--as a place where, putting off our mortal covering, we are clothed with the garments of immortality,—and it is no less our interest than our duty,-it will contribute as much to our real happiness here, as to our preparation and fitness for the happiness of hereafter, sometimes to gaze at it with a steadfast look, and to pouder well upon the awful instructions with which it is fraught. To the eyes of a Christian, the dwelling-place of the pious dead presents a scene from which he will not always be anxious to turn away. It has its principle of attraction, as well as of repulsion. It may afflict, but it will also bless. It may wound, but it will also heal. It is full of tender appeals and heart-stirring admonitions, to the influence of which we cannot often expose ourselves without thereby becoming wiser and better. In the full tide of youth, and health, and strength, when we are sailing smoothly along the sea of life, attended with smiling skies, and wafted by prosperous gales, we think not of the frail vessel in which we are embarked, nor of the great gulph into the depth of which we may shortly be plunged. But when storms and tempests arise, and the billows of adversity or of death are advancing to overwhelm us, we then become sensible of the impotence of our own strength, and casting ourselves upon Him who “ rides in the whirlwind, and directs the storm,” we cry, “ Lord, save us, or we perish !" In the bustle and tumult of the world, the still small voice” of religion is seldom heard, or is heard only to be disregarded ; but, when we are withdrawn from that noise, and every sound is hushed in the stillness of contemplation, then, when we are driven into the quiet loneliness of our own hearts, the gentlest whisperings of piety find a ready listener in our thoughts, and its consolations and its hopes present themselves to us as the only sufficient cure for the sorrows and the ills of mortality. It is when we are bending over the closing grave of a dear and cherished acquaintance, that we learn to enter more clearly into the profound meaning of that beautiful scripture, • Our life is hidden with God.” It is then that we learn, better than any human instructor can teach us, the value of those blessed human charities by which God has bound us, in the first place, to each other, and finally to himself. It is then that the lusions of the world vanish, and that we perceive more clearly, and feel more strongly, that the real excellence and beauty of life consists, not in the accumulation of wealth, or the possession of power, not in schemes of restless ambition, or the greedy pursuit of pleasure, not in pomp and show, and revelry and noise, but in the virtues and graces of a pure and renovated mind, in the silent and refreshing meditations of a well-instructed and well-harmonized spirit, and in the exercise and indulgence of those social and pious affections, which, though they have their growth on earth, though they bud and blossom in the climate of mortality, will flourish with greater vigour, and attain to more perfect maturity in that land of fairer skies, and of purer sunshine, for which they are destined. It is thus that our departed friends continue to speak to us, and it is in this way that the remembrance of their virtuous life and holy conversation, may be hallowed to our sanctification and redemption.
REMEMBRANCE OF THE HONOURED
V. GEORGE WALKER.] BEFORE the gentle and benignant religion of
Christ appeared, there was found amongst men a philosophy of high and splendid pretensions, but in truth founded in an ungracious selfishness, which rejected all mournful remembrance of the dead, as a weakness of the man, and subversive of that calm and sober virtue which consists in the dispassionate and absolute possession of the mind. But the wisdom of God in the constitution of man has always prevailed over such impotent attempts : nor have the most calm and philosophic, when standing in any interesting relation, been able to divert from their thoughts the memory of the dead, to repel the deep sensibility of their loss, or to withhold the affectionate expressions of it. Indeed, it is not in human nature to look with an unconcerned eye on the numerous trophics of death; to see that unpitying destroyer break into the fold which encloses all we hold dear, and rend asunder the strong ties of nature, of friendship, and of love; yet not mourn, nor suffer the tear to flow, nor the burdened breast to heave. Heaven, which has given to us this tenderness and sensibility of soul,-Heaven, which has allied this tenderness to the most graceful virtues-expects not from us a submission, which is no test of fortitude or of better faith. If to drop the tear over the grave of a rela