« AnteriorContinuar »
fold a lovelier hue and diffuse a healthier influence. As the great vegetable system can do without the frail leaf that falls, nay requires its fall, and will make its fall subservient to its own use, so society can do without us. We are but tiny leaves in the ever-growing forest of humanity, we fall and are not missed,—nay our ashes may minister strength to the roots of coming ages.
The race will carry on its governments, its commerce, its literature, its religion, without our help. It may require our death, make our very death serve its interests. Let us then not be proud of our position.
V. THE LEAF FADES AS A PROGRESSIVE STAGE OF LIFE. The tree from which the leaf fell is not dead. Its roots are in the soil and full of life. It threw off the sere leaf to put on another and lovelier garment. As the vitality of the tree continues when the leaf falls, the life of man will remain when the body dies. Yes, and like the tree, that life will dress itself in another garb. As the throwing away of the leaf is but a stage in the tree's progressive life, so the death of the body is but a stage in the onward life of man.
As the tree changes its foliage every year, so we are here constantly changing these bodies. The body of infancy gives way to that of childhood, that of childhood to youth, that of youth to manhood, that of manhood to old age, that of old age to the “ eternal house." Let us look then at the fading forest and learn what our life really is in its material aspects.
“How fraught with change is life!—The child at play,
Now I would call your attention to four states of mind existing in relation to this fact, one of which must be yours:
First : Unreasoning indifference. The great mass of mankind are stolidly indifferent. Although the certainty of death is unquestionable, they “deem all men mortal but themselves.” Why is this? It is not for the want of mementoes. Wherever I go I am reminded of man's mortality. I enter a room, there are pictures of the dead ; I converse with a friend, there are allusions to the departed ; I walk the streets, persons meet me clad in the symbols of mourning. Funeral processions cross my path wherever I go, and cemeteries surround my dwelling. Everywhere without, and within too, there are mementoes that “ do fade as a leaf.” Yet men are indifferent to the fact. They eat, they drink, they are married and given in marriage, they toil and labor here, as if this were their everlasting habitation. Is it rational, I ask, for men to be indifferent to such a fact, to an event that terminates all their relations with the world? No, it is blind stupidity. “Oh that men were wise that they would consider their latter end !”
Secondly : Intellectual stoicism. There are some who look at death as the end of existence. It is but nature, say they, breaking up the organization which it at first moulded with its plastic hand. All ends in the grave. He who descends into that land of darkness, will never have a thought, feel a sensation, or perform an action again. The spark is quenched for ever. Man is reduced to eternal nothingness. Is this a state of mind you would choose to entertain concerning death? Infidels recommend this state as a rest to the
But if a rest, how difficult to reach ? What work must be done before you can bring your mind to this point. It must be done, by crushing all the religious tendencies of the soul, by obliterating the moral sense and trampling all our intuitions in the dust. It must be done, by quenching our aspirations for another life and destroying our nature's panting for immortality. It must be
done, by condemning the pious of all ages as fanatics and enthusiasts; the Bible, that has been held as divine by the greatest intellects of all times, as a cunningly devised fable. It must be done, by reasoning down reason into folly, mind into matter, God into nature. How few can do this ; and when they do it, have they rest? I trow not.
Thirdly : Terrible foreboding. There are some fearfully alarmed at the idea of death; "all their life subject to bondage” from its fear. They are conscious of what death will do for them. It will take them from their property, house, friendships, all the sources of their joy, and hasten them into an eternity for which they are unprepared. Any intimation of dying fills them with terror. Is this a desirable state of mind ?
Fourthly : Christian composure. There are some who are enabled to look at death with calm and tranquil spirits. They regard it not as the extinction of being, but as a change in its mode. They view it as that which will end for ever all their imperfections, sorrows and pains, and introduce them to everlasting and blessed habitations. They are not distressed at the fading of the leaf; its fall does not alarm them.
They can say in relation to the body, Let it fall ; though I value it as the organ of the soul, though I am thankful for the impressions it has conveyed to me, helping to the training of my intellect and the culture of my heart, still let it fall. Let it fall, either in the vivacity of youth, the vigor of manhood, or the frailties of age ; “for I know that when the earthly house of this my tabernacle is dissolved, I have a building of God an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens." Which of these states of mind, my brother, in relation to our approaching mortality is the rational one ? I need not ask which is the happiest one, that is obvious. Which will you adopt ?
SUBJECT :- The Revolutionary and the Revelationary Forces
of the Gospel.
“And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, behold this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel ; and for a sign which shall be spoken against : (Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”—Luke ii. 34–35.
Analysis of Homily the Four Hundred and Sixty-fifth.
SIMEON, having clasped the Incarnate One in his arms, blessed God, and exultingly sought a dismission from the world, turned to the parents of Jesus and “ blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, behold this child," &c. We shall take the words to illustrate :
I. THE REVOLUTIONARY FORCE OF THE GOSPEL. With the truth-inspiring spirit upon Simeon he prophecies that the holy child was set for the fall and the rising of many in Israel.” What does this mean? Three things may be included in it :
First : That His system will bring down the proud, and elevate the humble. The first thing His gospel does is to bring the proud soul down into the depths of self-abasement, and then to raise it into blessed fellowship with all that is great and good in the universe. “ He that humbleth himself shall be exalted,” &c. The cross is the condition of the crown, the valley of humiliation is the pathway to the heights of celestial honor. This revolution the gospel always effects in the soul in which it effectually acts. It casts down every imagination, and every high thing, and every thing that exalteth itself. It may include :
Secondly: That His system will effect great social changes. In whatever social sphere His gospel has worked to any great extent its mission, it has so modified the conditions of social life, that the proud, arrogant, and overbearing men, that once occupied high positions, fall from their altitudes, and
men of moral worth, from classes below, rise and take their place. In our England the types of men who once occupied our throne, presided over our courts of justice, and officiated in our temples, will occupy these dignified offices no more. These types of character have fallen in public esteem ; they will never rise again. Men of another type will ascend to these situations. Let the gospel thoroughly leaven our country, and far greater social revolutions in this respect will you see than have yet taken place. It may include :
Thirdly : That His system will prove a moral injury to some, whilst it insures the well-being of others.
This is an awfully solemn point. The old prophets had the idea that the Messiah would be a “stone of stumbling and a rock of offence” to some, and the apostle speaks of the gospel as proving “ the savour of death unto death,” as well as “of life unto life.” How does the gospel injure? (1) Not by design. (2) Not by inherent tendency. (3) Not by divine effort. Three things may explain it. (1) Multitudes reject Christianity. (2) The rejection of it is the greatest sin. (3) The greatest sin will insure the greatest misery. Many will rise to the sublimest heights through the gospel, many will fall to the profoundest abysses of woe. Many will curse the day that they ever heard its “blessed sound.” Christianity then is a revolutionary power.
" It overturns,” &c.
II. THE REVELATIONARY FORCE OF THE GOSPEL, thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” Simeon in the text specifies the influence which Christ would exert upon the mind of His enemies, and upon the mind of His mother. He would arouse His enemies to hostile speech, He would be to them "a sign which shall be spoken against," a mark against which the tongue of the enemy would hurl its arrows of calumny. This was verified in His life. What calumnies by Scribe, and Pharisee, Priest, and Magistrate, were zealously propagated concerning Him. This was true of His
* See last number of the Homilist.