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choly mansions, concerning whom no stone tells where they lie ! How soon may you join these tenants of the grave! Wait not, then, for hoary locks to inform you, that you are tottering over the tomb. The gates of eternity are always open: and the youth, the child, and the infant, are passing through them night and day. The knell may soon toll for your funeral also: and your weeping friends may soon follow you to the grave. How distressing will it be to them to look into that dark and narrow house, without a hope, and to follow your souls into eternity with no supporting evidence, that, while here you believed in the Redeemer, or loved God; or that there you will give your account with joy, be acquitted at the final trial, or find your names written in the Lamb's book of Life.
THE FINAL INTERVIEW.
ECCLESIASTES xij. 7.
Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was; and the spirit
AFTER the death of one of our fellow men, we hear the funeral bell summon together the surviving friends and neighbours of the deceased, to perform the last kind offices. The assembly gathers; a prayer is made ; the coffin is placed on the bier, and borne to the grave. The body is then committed to the earth. A solemn address is made to the living, while surrounding the narrow house ; and, with impressions produced by the affecting event, and in some degree suited to its melancholy nature, they then return to their own habitations.
Our friend has now bidden us a final adieu. The intercourse between him and us is terminated ; and both the persons
and “ places which knew him” in the present world, “ will here know him no more.” Nothing is more obvious, than that this solemn subject affects the survivors less than its importance demands. The widow indeed, and the orphan children, usually mourn sincerely, and in earnest. The death of the husband and the father, has wounded their affection, lessened their happiness, and overcast their hopes. There are, also, at least in many instances, other friends, less intimately connected, who sensibly feel the breach made upon their enjoyments. But there are multitudes of others, and those often not very remote in acquaintance or consanguinity, whose last affecting emotions concerning the departed man are felt at the grave; and who, when they turn their feet
homeward, leave behind them every sympathizing reflection, every solemn thought. With them, life immediately assumes the same aspect, as if they had never known him; and the world, as if he had never been.
But notwithstanding all this indifference to death, and to those who are dead, there are occasions, on which these emotions will in some measure come home to the heart ; incidents, which will call them up to view in an affecting light; and persons, by whom they will be seriously realized in a manner not unsuited to their importance. On such occasions, most men, perhaps, experience at times some degree of solicitude ; and feel an involuntary twinge, a transient chill, passing over their hearts. That we should be so inattentive to a subject which so nearly concerns us, and so strongly appeals to our natural tenderness, seems at first thought to be strange. The explanation is in some degree, perhaps principally, furnished by our fears. The death of others naturally alarms us concerning our own departure ; and the consideration of their future allotments easily leads us to reflections concerning our own. It is not to be wondered at that subjects, 80 painful as these, should be unwelcome whenever they approach ; and be dismissed, not only without reluctance, but with eagerness and self-gratulation.
There are however seasons, in which we cannot wholly refuse to wander into the unseen world. Those, who are witnesses of the death and burial of this departed friend, will, at times, follow him in the exercise of imagination; and inquire with some anxi. ety whither he is gone; where he dwells ; and by what circumstances he is surrounded. His body, we know, is lodged in the grave; is mouldering into its native dust ; and is already become the prey of corruption, and the feast of worms. But where is the Man? Where is the living, conscious Being, that saw with the eyes, spoke with the tongue, and moved the hands, of that body? Where is the being who thought and chose, loved and hated, controlled the cares of the family, mingled in the intercourse of the neighbourhood, and took an active part in the in teresting concerns of the present world?
Obviously, he is gone, to return no more. But whither has be gone? Is he “blotted out of the book of the living ?" Has he returned to his original nothing? Or has he become an iwhabitant of some unknown world, whence no person was ever permitted to come with tidings to us? He has“ given up the ghost, and where is he?"
To these questions the Text returns a decisive answer. “Their shall the dust return to the earth, as it was ; and the spirit shall return to God, who gave it." The man, the living, conscious being who inhabited the body lately committed to the grave, has returned to God. We naturally inquire, “For what end has he been summoned to the Presence of this glorious and awful Being ?” A following verse of the context replies, “ For God shall bring every work into Judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.” This short and affecting answer to a question so solemn and interesting, it will be the aim of this discourse to expand into a few particulars, kindly presented for our meditation in other parts of the Word of God.
It ought however to be observed, before I commence the execution of this design, that he, concerning whom we inquire, has now become an unembodied spirit. That union with the body which bound him to earthly objects, employments, and connections, is finally dissolved. To all these he has bidden his last farewell; and now wings his way alone, through the regions invisible being. The same man, who lived a little while since in the midst of us, and whose remains we followed to the grave, is now an inhabitant of eternity. Him we are now following to that amazing vast; that unknown somewhere. We an airy being of fancy, but a real man; a neighbour and friend ; separated from us but yesterday. Of this person it is to be observed,
1st. That he has now begun his acquaintance and connection, with that World, of which he is to be a perpetual inhabitant.
The present world is a stage, where we are called to act a part; and are then destined to retire behind the curtain. The part assigned to us, is short ; and the time allotted to it, momen
tary. When it is ended, we shall reappear no more. Such was the situation of our deceased friend.
But now he has begun a state which is enduring, and incapable of change or termination. All his connections are eternal: his pursuits ; his character ; his allotments. No new world lies beyond. No revolution of years, or of ages, advances him nearer to a close. No distant old age brings on its decays. No death waits, to release him to some other, untried scenes of existence. He has opened his eyes at once on a prospect literally boundless ; and, roving onward and onward, with a wearisome investigation, he sees ages rising after ages in a succession which will begin forever.
2dly. He has entered into the presence of God, the Judge
In this world our neighbour, like ourselves, saw God at a distance ; in his works, faintly seen and slightly considered ; or in his word, scarcely read, imperfectly understood, and little regarded ; or perhaps in his own meditations, reluctantly employed on this great subject, and coldly accompanied by affections engaged about the things of time and sense.
But now he comes directly into the presence of his Maker ; and beholds him face to face. He does not, indeed, behold " Him," whom "no one hath seen, or can see, and live." But he presents himself before the Son of God; the divine person, “ to whom all Judgment is committed.” His face he has beheld ; his voice he has heard; as in this world he had heard the voice, and seen the face, of an earthly judge. While our friend lived in the present world ; he had often heard many things concerning this glorious person. He had heard of him, as a poor, despised man; as rejected, hated and persecuted ; as tried, condemned and crucified. He had heard of him, as wrapped in swathes and spices, and laid in the grave; as having risen from the dead, and ascended to heaven. Perhaps he believed, perhaps he disbelieved, the whole. If he believed, it was at the best imperfectly ; distantly ; with a dullness, at which he is now astonished; with an insensibility, which now overwhelms him with VOL. II,