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First : By estimating himself to be immortal in essence and imperfect in character. If a man regard himself as exclusively belonging to earth ; if he consider that this is the only sphere of existence; that when he leaves this scene he is no more; it is impossible for him to be contented under the present mode of administration. Or, if believing in his immortality, he should consider himself perfect, he could not in that case be contented. He would be perpetually blaming God for inflicting suffering upon an innocent being, which would do violence to all His instinctive notions of justice.
But the apostle regarded himself as a candidate for eternity --this life as but the cradle of his being; and he viewed himself as an imperfect character. He felt that the sufferings he endured, though great, were not to be compared with what he deserved; and as he was an heir of immortality, not worthy to be compared with "the glory that should be revealed in Him." Let a man feel this and he will be contented.
Secondly : By a comprehensive view of God's government and its relation to eternity. Paul did not judge of Providence by isolated events;—he formed a view of the whole system. And he said that “all things,” &c. He saw all events working; all events working in harmony; all events working in harmony for good to the good.
As all events in the natural world are subservient to its natural good-so in the moral. The farmer is taught, by the constancy with which the earth rewards his daily toil, to trust the precious grain to its care during the inclement weather; for he knows that sunny days will come, and render the frost and snow and rain means to promote its growth. The mariner on the trackless wave has learnt to confide in the mag. netic needle, and in the midst of the storm to be content that he shall reach the desired haven. The illiterate man sees a strange body carreering through the heavens, and he fully prognosticates a great national calamity, if not the conflagration of the globe; but the astronomer who has taken a view of the whole system is content; for he knows that it comes up from the vastness of immensity to the point of his vision, at the very moment of time that he had foretold.
Let us take a wide view of Providence as working for our good- for our eternal good, and we shall be content. Nor let us overlook the grand designs of Providence with us. They are not to make us rich ; not to raise us to seats of authority and power ; they are not to make us wealthy, but holy; not great men on earth, but shining seraphs in Heaven.
Whatever events happen, however painful and distressing, if they correct our errors, uproot our wrong principles, weaken our attachments to the world, and tend to increase our devotedness to God, they should awaken our gratitude and praise.
Thirdly: By a settled conviction that the most distressing events can do no real injury to the Christian. This Paul felt. He was poor in body but rich in soul;—he possessed all thingsa prisoner, yet he lived in light and revelled in liberty.
Let me fall into the greatest distress-deprive me of my home, and rob me of my temporal hopes; What then have I ? I have still a world of beauty around to gaze upon, study, and admire ; I have friends to sympathize with me; I have the rich Gospel; the throne of grace; a peaceful conscience; a Divine Comforter; hopes, of Heaven that will lift me above the blackest cloud. Outward providence can do but little harm; it can only destroy my worthless tabernacle, and “ I know that when this earthly house,” &c.
Fourthly : By a moral identification with Christ. “I am crucified with him.” “Whether I live.” “ The life which I live in the flesh,” &c.
He lived with Christ-He was familiar with his distress; it stood before His mind in all its magnitude, and his own dwindled away as unworthy of a thought. He reflected upon the glory of Christ and all the grandeur of earth disappeared, as stars in the light of day. “God forbid that I should glory,” &c. Let us by faith live thus with Christ, and whatever be our sufferings, we may surely feel that, “we shall be glorified together.”
SUBJECT :— The Gates of Death.
“Have the gates of death been opened unto thee? or hast thou seen the doors of the shadow of death ? "-Job xxxviii, 17.
Analysis of Homily the Four Hundred and Thirtieth. THESE remarkable words are part of a wonderfully sublime address which the Infinite Maker of the Universe delivered to Job amidst the rush and the roar of an eastern whirlwind. The long, earnest, and unsatisfactory, debate which had been carried on between the patriarch and his friends touching the government of God, was thus terminated with an awfully grand abruptness. It is noteworthy, that in these communications of the Almighty, He does not condescend to propound a solution of the difficulty which had perplexed their judgment and engrossed their discussion. He gives no explanation of His doings, but the grand aim of His appeal is to impress the importance and duty of confidence in His character. Man, intellectually, is too small to comprehend His doings. A firm unshaken trustfulness therefore is at once his duty and interest.
Amongst the many things He appeals to in order to impress Job with his insignificance, as compared with his Maker, is the dark region of death expressed in the text ;—" Have the gates of death,” &c. The allusion here is to the state which in the Hebrew is called Sheol, and in the Greek Hades ; which means the dark abode of the dead—the deep, dark, vast realm to which all past generations are gone—to which the present generation is going, and whither all coming men, up to the day of doom will proceed. The ancients supposed this region to be under ground, entered by the grave, and enclosed by gates and bars.
I will take this divine appeal as suggesting four things :
I. THE MENTAL DARKNESS THAT ENSHROUDS US. All the phepomena of the heavens, the earth, and the multiform operations of the Creator, referred to in this divine address, were designed and fitted to impress Job with the necessary limitation of his knowledge, and the ignorance that encircled him on all questions; and the region of death is but one of the many points to which he is directed as an example of his ignorance.
How ignorant are we of the great world of departed men ! What a thick veil of mystery enfolds the whole ! What questions often start within us to which we can get no satisfactory reply, either from philosophy or the Bible !
I am thankful that we are left in ignorance
First : Of the exact condition of each individual in that great and ever-growing realm. In general, the Bible tells us that the good are happy and the wicked miserable. This is enough. We would have no more light. We would not know all about those whom we have known and loved; we would not know the exact pursuits they are following, and the exact thoughts and emotions that circulate in an incessant flow through their souls. If we saw them as they are, should we be fit to enjoy the few days of this brief life, or to perform its duties? We should stand, I think, paralyzed at the vision.
I am thankful that we are left in ignorance :
Secondly : Of our exact proximity to the great realm of the departed. We would not have the day or the hour disclosed. The men to whom the day of death was made known were confounded. Saul heard from Samuel, &c. Peter told Sapphira, &c.
Who if he knew it would undertake any enterprize? Would Moses have undertaken the guidance of the Israelites if he had known that neither he nor they would cross the Jordan ?” &c. Would Jonathan have ascended Gilboa? David, &c. I am thankful for the ignorance. The Divine appeal suggests :
II. THE SOLEMN CHANGE THAT AWAITS US. have not opened to us, but must. Speaking of death according to the figure before us we observe :
First: The gates are in constant motion. No sooner are they closed to one, than another enters. It is computed that one enters every moment. Secondly: The gates open to all
classes. There are gates which are to be entered only by persons of distinction ; but here are kings and beggars, &c. Thirdly: The gates open only one way-into eternity. We have, it is true, an account of a few that have come back. But only one that had not to go that way again. No coming back. (Job. vi. 7–13.) “They shall,” says Job, “return no more.” Hezekiah. David said, “I shall go to him," &c.
I rejoice in this. I would not have the good back againnor the bad. The Cæsars, the Alexanders, the Napoleons, back again ! No! Thank God for death. Fourthly : The gates separate the probationary from the retributionary. When we pass those gates what do we leave behind ?-on what do we enter? Fifthly: The gates are under supreme authority. There is only One Being that can open them. Not accident, &c. The Divine appeal suggests :
III. TAE WONDERFUL First : We have always been near those gates. We dwell in “houses of clay." Secondly : Thousands have gone through since we began the journey of life. Younger and better too. Thirdly: We have often been made to feel ourselves near. (1) In personal affliction. We have felt the cold breeze coming up freezing the temple and chilling the blood. (2) In bereavements. While we have stood by holy death beds we have felt the aroma wafted from the lovely scenes on the other side. “ The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness.” The Divine appeal suggests:
IV. THE SERVICE
First: It assures us there is life on the other side the gates. In stepping through them, we do not step into black extinction. So much light as this, the old philosophers never reached. Secondly: It assures us there is blessedness on the other side the
opens the door of the future and shows us a world of men in heaven. “ I saw a great multitude,” &c.
“ They live, the beautiful, the dead,