Page images

cially present. Their faces shine while they boldly intercede, that they may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Look at that irreligious father, who spurns at the duty of family devotion ; has his household peace and comfort like this?

To-day we meet a pious father. As he affectionately takes our hand, tears of joy flow from eyes unaccustomed to weep. What causes this overflowing of heart? Oh, his long lost child,—the child of his hopes, the child of his prayers, and the child of his tears,—is found. And found by him who came to seek and save that which is lost. Has the ungodly father joy like this?

We now walk in secret places, and what objects are these which we behold? Yonder is an aged pilgrim, wearied with the calls of the world, and the noise of her companions to the grave who has retired with her Bible to enjoy a season of undisturbed communion with God. Oh, how refreshing, how sweet to her taste this communion with her heavenly Father! Yonder, too, is a youth, who has recently been adopted into the family of God. He is presenting his thank-offering for converting grace, and pleading at the throne of mercy for his companions in sin. In the attitude of supplication, he lingers and pleads, and lingers and pleads. His lips break their silence. We hear him saying, “I will not let thee go except thou bless me"_except thou convert and save my companions. Look at those, who scoff at the religion of the cross; are they found in places so sacred, and in employments so delightful, so heavenly as these ?

We now visit houses of affliction. Entering one, we find a man of forty-five. A short time since he was the picture of health. This man did not pray in his family. He did not frequent the house of God. To the sacredness of the Sabbath he paid but little attention. And for the support of religious insti. tutions he made no sacrifices. Disease has grasped the springs of life, and in full strength he is writhing and groaning with tortures of body; and this is not all which renders the sight appalling. He is now brought to see himself in the hands of death, unprepared for the retributions of eternity. He entreats us to instruct him, and pray for him. And with a countenance terrific, a soul filled with anguish, and the darkness of despair gathering around him, his cries for pardon and salvation are incessant, until death closes the scene, and there is a great and awful silence. Well did wicked Balaam say, Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his.”

But as afflictions are not confined to the families of the un. godly, we will enter another dwelling. Here we find an emaciated body, worn out with disease and distress. This person is a female, a tender plant, which has been watched, and nourished, with all the attention and solicitude of a fond mother's care ; but the rough winds, and violent storms of death, are now beating upon her. Her eyes are sunk, her bosom heaves, her lips quiver-all, all bespeak the presence of the king of terrors. And yet there is a meekness in her aspect, like the love of Jesus -there is a calmness, like a summer's evening—there is the stillness of peace—the softness of quietude—and the joy of bright prospects. We ask her, whence this triumph in death? She replies, God is dwelling with me; in him do I triumph. We ask her mother, who stands gazing on her dying child, how can you be so calm and cheerful in this heart-rending hour? She replies, God is dwelling with me-in his will do I rejoice. Tell me, oh, tell me, my hearers, did you ever witness a scene so affecting, so comforting, and so heavenly, in the dwellings of those, who neglect the institutions of our holy religion ?

Religion, in the life that now is, presents its hundred-fold reward. And were all beyond the grave but an empty void ; were death, when it dissolves the body, to annihilate the soul; we could not do too much in rearing a Sanctuary, that we might secure the presence of God among us.

We should not, however, omit to contemplate, for a moment, the benefits resulting from God's dwelling with a people, which they will experience in the world to come.

Life is a vapor, and time is but a narrow isthmus, separating eternity. past from eternity future. Whatever are the blessings of God's special presence experienced in this world, compared with those to be experienced in the world of spirits, they are a drop to the ocean, an atom to the universe. Persons must rear a sanctuary, and thus secure the dwelling of God with them in this life, or they cannot dwell with him in the life to come. “ And holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.” It is a privilege of those who attend on the means of grace with a cordial reliance on Christ for pardon and acceptance, to be delivered from a woe indescribable, a woe eternal-from the worm which never dieth, and from the fire which is never quenched. It is also their privilege to be like Christ, to be with Christ, to behold his glory, to taste of his love, and drink of the river of pleasure which issues from his throne forever and ever. Brethren, were there no present advantages derived from serving God

-were our attempts to serve him attended with toil, disappointment and sorrow, with no one emotion of joy—were the wicked to be the people of prosperity, of undisturbed peace, and unalloyed comfort in this world ; and were the righteous, as was their Saviour, to be forsaken in death: when faith presents us a vision of the miseries of the damned, and of the glories of the redeemed, we are prepared to say, Let us live the life, and die the death of the righteous, and let our last end be like his.

[blocks in formation]



“Let every man be swift to hear."-JAMES i. 19.

A precious faculty is that of hearing, and in a multitude of ways it is a source of delight to us all. Pleasant to us are the sounds even of inanimate nature-of zephyrs that sigh softly over banks of flowers; of brooks that glide with gentle murmur along their rocky channels; of mighty winds that sweep over forest-crowned mountains ; of old ocean pealing forth the gravest notes of the universal anthem. The varied minstrelsy of birds, those dear relics of Eden; the hum of bees and the lowing of herds,-nay even the hoarse baying of the watch-dog, have all, in their several methods and measures, a power and a charm for us. Dearer still are the tones that fall from human lips,—the accents of friendship,--the utterances of parental love,the voices of children, the notes of " men-singers and women-singers,"

“With many a winding bout Of linked sweetness long drawn out,"

the “words that breathe and thoughts that burn," of those who have the gift of a lofty and commanding eloquence. A golden gate, surely, is that of the town of Mansoul, which Bun. yan has made so prominent in his famous old allegory of the Holy War.

But of all the many sorts of hearing, that which is most im• portant, and which should be most highly prized by us, is the hearing of God's Word. Large provision has God made for it. An order of men is instituted, a day is appointed, the better to secure this privilege. The noise of business is hushed, its clamorous demands are suspended, a peace typifying that of heaven overspreads the land, that God may speak to man, and that man may listen to God. The shedding of the Saviour's blood hath secured this boon; blessed memories of Gethsemane and Calvary woo men to the sanctuary. “Swist to hear" in other relations they may well show themselves—to listen to words of kindness, to expositions of science, to counsels of human wisdom; but swifter should they be to hear the glorious Gospel of the Son of God. It is not a vain thing for them, it is their life. For "faith cometh by hearing.” It begins thus, and thus commonly it springs up toward perfection. It is they only " that be planted in the house of the Lord,” that “shall flourish like the palmtree,” that “shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon.” The most eminent servants of God in every age have understood this. Their language has been like that of David, “One thing have I desired of the Lord, and that will I seek after, that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of tie Lord, and to inquire in his temple.”

There is, however, a class of persons in our religious congregations--some of them have been recognized even within the pale of the Church--whose temper is obviously of quite an opposite sort. The terms of my statement intimate that they do not utterly forsake the sanctuary; nay, they ordinarily suffer no Sabbath to pass without resorting to it. But their thirst for its privileges seems to be easily slaked. A single service is apt to suffice. They may be properly characterized as half day hearers. Their “ goodness" is too literally " as a morning cloud and the eurly dew."

In respect to the afternoon service, they do hut illustrate negatively the precept of our text. It is of these halfDAY HEARERS I propose to discourse.

Yet let me not be supposed to speak without discrimination. Far be it from me to ignore in this relation, providential hindrances. Aged persons there are, whose infirmity makes even a single visit to the house of God a great Sabbath labor. Persons of all classes are liable to the assaults of disease. It is indeed somewhat remarkable, that attacks of this sort should happen so often upon the Sabbath. How are we to account for these hebdomadal visitations ? To what occult influence shall we ascribe it, that just as holy time begins, cruel rheumatisms tighten their grasp, and hoarse colds clog the channels of respiration, and crushing beadaches settle down upon the brain? Can it be that the God of this world has still some partial power over the bodies of men, and by a natural exercise of his malignity makes this the time of his sorest inflictions? Or is the cause to be found in some hidden physical force, some mysterious working of the law of periodicity? If the inquiry is to take this direction, it may well call into exercise the keenest sagacity of the medical faculty. Nor should they overlook the question, to what peculiar atmospheric or other influence it is owing, that a malady neglected during the week, is found to be most advantageously treated on the Sabbath day-that just that day is discovered to be most favorable to the operation of the pills or powders, the tinctures or decoctions which a particular case is judged to require. We cannot but suspect, however, that the cause sought for lies below the sphere of merely physical agencies. Its seat, we fear, is in the province of the spiritual. Yet there are visitations of disease, we know, neither fancied nor welcomed, which must needs kcep their subjects from the sanctuary. Some, too, must attend upon the sick, and others must watch over helpless infancy. We utter, in regard to this subject no sweeping condemnation; nay, we are slow to judge of particular cases, we would ever exercise in regard to them that charity which “thinketh no evil,” and which "hopeth all things.” We would be guilty of no rude or impertinent meddling with men's private affairs; least of all would we trench upon the rights which pertain in this matter to the individual conscience. We speak not of those whose justification is in the limitations of Providence, or in the imperative claims of duty. Let none who on such grounds stand absolved from censure, regard this discourse as intended for them. It touches the case of those only who err in heart, who are defaulters from the lack not of good opportunities, but of right affections. There are few of this class, I am happy to believe, in the congregation before me. Yet even here some possibly may need a word of admonition ; and besides, " the prudent man foreseeth the evil.” Be the present, as it may, it is well to guard ourselves, to the utmost, against possible lapses and delinquencies in the future. We pass then, to present, in various aspects, the case of him, who both in heart and habit merits the appellation of a half-day hearer.

I. I observe then, first, he himself incurs great loss. A greater, it should be remembered, from the fact, that the course he takes is quite in accordance with his inclinations. He who is reluctantly kept from the house of God, is, indeed, deprived of a most valuable privilege; yet, if his heart be there, He whose service he delights in, will not leave him unblessed. Partial amends, at least, may be made, in the joys and advantages of private devotion, and in his fervent communion with the assembled worshippers. No such compensation has the man who is willingly absent from the ministration of the word. Rather than curtail the means of grace, he should give them enlargement. Instead of half a Sabbath a week, he needs the sunshine

« PreviousContinue »