Discourses, Laurie, Thomas, April 13th, 19th, and 23d, 1865.,
The South Evangelical Church, West Roxbury, Mass..
The South Evangelical Church
WEST ROXBURY, MASS.,
April 13th, 19th, and 23d, 1865,
BY THOMAS LAURIE.
Published by Request.
PRINTED BY JOHN COX, Jr.
Preached on Fast Day, April 13, 1865, and repeated in Rev. Mr. Edwards's Church, Dedham in the afternoon.
Ezra 8, 21: Then I proclaimed a Fast there at the river of Ahava, that we might afflict ourselves before our God, to seek of Him a right way for us and for our little ones, and for all our substance.
IT is written in holy scripture, "Is any addicted, let him pray. Is any merry, let him sing psalms." This is also the voice of nature. But sometimes an occasion of great joy is only a louder call for prayer, and such were the circumstances referred to in the text. That we may see this more clearly, let us go back a little in the history of Israel. For their sins they had been carried captive to Babylon. This captivity lasted seventy years, so that very few of those who witnessed its commencement lived to see its close. Toward the end of it, Daniel set his face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplication, with fasting and sackcloth and ashes, the grace which had been promised to his people. Here was one in affliction praying, encouraged by the promise of a divine deliverance. And soon the deliverance came. Cyrus the Great issued a proclamation declaring that
In consequence of this proclamation, a company of nearly fifty thousand went up to Jerusalem under Zerubbabel, and it is interesting to note that out of so large a multitude only eight thousand one hundred and thirty-six, or less than one in six, were able to ride, though the journey occupied four months; moreover, three out of every four who did ride were mounted on asses, the cheapest and smallest of all beasts of burden. Yet though so poor, they carried up with them offerings to the amount of sixty-one thousand pieces of gold, and five thousand pounds of silver--this last worth about seventy-five thousand dollars.
Fourteen years after, a royal order was procured from Cambyses to put a stop to the work; but only three years after that, Darius Hystaspes commanded it to go on. He restored the sacred vessels plundered by Nebuchadnezzar, and appropriated sufficient from the royal tribute to meet all expenses.
Surely in all this Israel had abundant occasion for praise. But in addition to this, Ezra, a scribe well instructed in the law, and devoted to the religious instruction of his people, received a commission from Artaxerxes Longimanus to go up to Jerusalem and enquire after the success of the enterprise. The king and his nobles contributed largely
My hearers, I need not tell you that to-day is a day of joy far greater than that ancient joy in Persia, when those who carried Israel away captive became the builders and guardians of a renovated temple. A rebellion vaster, fiercer and more defiant than earth ever saw before, has just received its death blow. A war unparalleled in magnitude, whether we look at the size of its armies, or the number and bloodiness of its battles;--a war involving the existence of our beloved country;--a war whose opening scenes made the heart faint, and the blood stagnate in the agony of our suspense,--such a war has just closed with a series of victories, involving such crushing defeats to our foes, that whether willing or unwilling, they must lay down the sword. We do not stop to ask how the South receives them. We raise no question about the time and manner of the proclamation of peace. Peace, to all intents and purposes, has been wrenched from their unwilling hands. The arm that refused it has been broken--broken by the mightier power of Him who doeth His will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth.
On Monday, when the news spread from city to city, and
My friends, we have very great occasion for praise, and no doubt we shall soon have an opportunity for its expression; would that when it comes, it might find us in the spirit of him who wrote, "Praise ye the Lord, for it is good to sing praises unto our God, for it is pleasant, and praise is comely." Would that whenever we come together for the worship of our Divine benefactor, we might have more heart to make his praise glorious. But praise is not our only work to-day. Even more than that pilgrim band at the river of Ahava, we have occasion for prayer as well as praise, and to that need let us now direct our thoughts, so that pleading, like that multitude by the river of Babylonia, we may, like them, prevail.
Why then, after so great victories, and in the midst of such universal joy, should we devote ourselves to the work of fasting and prayer? I answer, in brief, because much
But you will ask, What can we do? We are private citizens; we fill no position of influence; we have no control over public affairs. Permit me, in all plainness, to answer: This last is not true. You may be private citizens; you may hold no office. But it is just such that the country looks to for help in this time of need; and if we do not render it, how can we answer for it to the great cloud of witnesses who, from so many gory beds, are looking on our inaction? How can we answer for it to their weeping friends, who gave them up to such a death for us? Do you still stand idle, and ask, "What can we do?" There is the mercy seat, and to-day Massachusetts calls on you to approach it, and intercede for your country. Have you done it? Do you intend yet to do it? All through the war, our rulers and our statesmen have needed our prayers, but never more than now, when on them devolves the work of securing to posterity the advantages procured at so great a cost. Think how one mistake, one well intentioned blunder, may mar the whole. Think how one treacherous Ahithophel may mislead an honest heart, and perpetuate, in new forms,
I have already said, in various forms, that the present is a turning point of destiny. Look for a moment at some of the things that make it such. The fate of the leaders of this rebellion is now to be decided. They, with others now gone to appear before a higher tribunal, have stirred up the South to frenzy. They have diligently fed the flame thus kindled. They have, by a worse than Parisian reign of terror, dragged with them unwilling men, and made the life of loyal citizens to hang on cooperation with treason. They have instigated all this slaughter. And when the brave men who sought to defend our country, fell into their hands, they deliberately tortured them to death. The rack and the stake were too merciful and too slow for their use. Famine, that could slay its thousands at a stroke; starvation in sight of abundance, was the instrument of their careful choice. The groaning of the prisoner came into their ears. The report of the guns that shot men too weak to stand, because they had not power to control the direction of their fall, echoed through the council chamber at Richmond, and passed beyond into loyal homes, where heart-broken relatives thanked God for the stroke which ended the long agony and the long suspense, and still that starvation went on.
My hearers, we need prayer here to guard us on both sides. On the one hand, from a passionate and ungodly wrath, that so far from being religious, unfits the soul for prayer; and on the other, from an antagonism to the demands of justice, which is, in essence, antagonism to God. In this matter, do we not need specially to pray that God will both keep our rulers from being opposed to justice, and
Then, besides the leaders, there is the whole population at the South. What dark masses of perplexity mount the sky, with the approach of peace, like clouds driven by the storm. How can the guilty be punished, and the innocent saved from further suffering? How can prejudice be conciliated--prejudice, drank in at a mother's breast, taught in the schools, strengthened by social intercourse with those trained under like influences, and above all, sanctioned by the teachings of the pulpit? No man can form any adequate idea of the strength of such prejudice, and not feel that God alone can remove it. And what shall be our future if it be not removed? There are those in whose minds all the sufferings and bereavements of the South in this rebellion will be invested with the halo of martyrdom in a holy cause, putting them hopelessly beyond the reach of argument. And if we may judge of the effect of their persecutions on the patriots of the South, from the spirit manifested by one recently chosen to be ruler of the State where he suffered so much, we do not see much prospect of conciliation or of harmony, and when to this antagonism we add the influx of greedy, unprincipled men from the free States, intent solely on their own advantage,
Turn to another class, hitherto kept in the background, but now brought, by their God and ours, into unwonted prominence. Thank God, they are bondmen no longer, but freedmen. But does the Proclamation of Freedom complete the work? Nay, verily. The shackles may be stricken off,
This gospel, and this alone, can fit the freedman for the right discharge of his duties; and there is no other power that can transform rebels into loyal citizens. Armies can break their power, but grace alone can break their hearts, and teach them to look with love both on their former slaves--now lifted up to share their own legal standing--and on those who, under God, have lifted them up to this equality. The whole South must be leavened with the gospel. Its educational and religious institutions must be reconstructed, not by arbitrary dictation, but by a loving co-operation; and to this end our churches--this church--each one of us who hope that we are Christians, need a fresh baptism from on high. We need to care not only for our own things, but also for the things of our whole land. Henceforth our interest, our prayers, and our benefactions must be on the broad scale of our country, what they have been for our own church. Will the churches come up to this? Are you, my hearers, ready to stand in your lot, and do whatsoever your hand findeth to do, as God shall give you ability, till these reunited States shall be thoroughly supplied with the ordinances of the worship of our God. O blessed invitation of our Master! to return such blessings for their curses and the miseries they sought to bring upon us! God, in his providence, calls us to this work--shall it be done? If we prove unfaithful, there is a class--not in the cotton-fields of South Carolina, but scattered through New England towns, and living in our own families--a class no more friendly to
But if we rightly discern the signs of the times; if in the spirit of our Master we meet the demands of the hour, all the deliverance God has wrought for us these four years on so many fields of strife; all the answers He has given to prayer for our rulers and our armies; the great salvation He has wrought from that gigantic system of oppression which corrupted all it touched, and seemed to defy our prayers; all these assure us that God will be with us and bless us with a still greater blessing. He will subdue rebel hearts as well as rebel armies. He will bless the negro in his new position, and we shall be that happy people whose God is the Lord.
Preached April 19th, the day of the Funeral of Abraham Lincoln.
1 Samuel 3, 18: It is the Lord. Let Him do what seemeth Him good.
WE are all mourners to-day. At ordinary funerals, we see a little bereaved band, and a larger circle of spectators, sympathizing, indeed, but not suffering the distress of those immediately afflicted. On public occasions like this we are accustomed to see much of the pageantry of sorrow, but little of the reality. It is not so to-day. Seldom do we witness in private bereavements such grief as is called forth by this public loss. I was walking out when the news came, and from almost every house that I passed weeping ones came out to meet me--not because they expected I could comfort them, but because their grief was too great to be endured alone. The death of no other President since the first could have awakened such emotion. He was our father, and we were his children. It was not always so. We need hardly go back six years to find a time when most of us did not even know his name, for by the force of his own sterling virtue he worked his way up from obscurity. And when, a
The war lengthened out beyond all our anticipations. But still our leader stood firm--firm in his own principles--firm in the confidence of loyal men. Then came the time for a new election. Would not men grow impatient under unusual burdens? Slanders were rife; and bold, bad men, caring nothing for principles, intent only on the one end of putting down the national government, carefully constructed a platform most conducive to popular effect. They selected their candidate for his availability rather than for his sympathy with themselves, and moved earth and heaven to overthrow him who had already surmounted the most difficult portion of the voyage toward a righteous and an honorable peace. There was a time when it seemed as though the enemy must succeed. It seemed as if the masses, deluded by slanders, would certainly turn against their steadfast deliverer. But not such was the will of God. You remember how He strengthened the heart of His faithful servant, and confounded His enemies by a result as gratifying as it was triumphant.
Thus was our confidence in the leader God had given us
When the blow fell--O, how sudden, and how sore!--we could not work; we could not eat. We scarce knew what we did or said; one crushing weight pressed all hearts into the dust. We had just begun to feel at home with him; we were just tasting the sweets of unbounded confidence and love, when that dastard crime dashed our cup of happiness on the stones. Now that the war was past, we expected to see him enjoy the remainder of his presidential term in reaping the harvest ripened under his care. But his work is done, and well done; his race is finished, and we rejoice that his character is so universally appreciated as it is to-day.
It is customary, on such an occasion, to say a word of comfort to the bereaved,--but :what shall I say? I cannot point you to all the reasons for such an event, for I know them not any more than you; but we can together enjoy the consoling thought--it is not chance; it is not accident; "It is the Lord; let Him do what seemeth Him good." But I have heard the passionate reply--"What! such an act from God! and such an agent!" My friend, I appreciate your difficulty. I do not wonder that it troubles you. But as to the agent: when would God do anything if He waited till a sinner became worthy to be the channel of His mercy?
But why enlarge? Such things are tests of our confidence in God; and however clouds and darkness may for a moment hide the sun, the Christian knows that it still shines--that there is a perfectly holy motive at the beginning--a pure and blameless management all the way, and an issue at the end that shall infinitely justify God in all His acts. The
For even if the course of events to-day, and for a long time to come, should give no ray of light; though so far as tendencies and manifest results of Providence were concerned, we should be left in darkness, yet the character of God is so perfect that we cannot do otherwise than give ourselves up confidingly to His sovereign disposal. If while our loved President was living, we could trust him even
But God has not shut us up to such darkness. As though He knew us too well to trust us in such entire absence of all sensible comfort, He has not left Himself without witness in this time of national calamity. For He has been with us all through the war, and led us by a way which we knew not, which nevertheless was the best and most beneficent way to victory. So that we may boldly say, "The Lord is our Helper, we will not fear what man can do unto us;" "Because Thou hast been our Help, therefore in the shadow of Thy wings will we rejoice." God has not led us all through this war to such a commanding position only to destroy us now. He has not answered so many prayers only to forsake us to-day. But this is one of the all things that shall work together for our good --yea, lift us up to a serener height of blessing. We have been accustomed to regard the rebel inhumanity to prisoners as one of the darkest clouds in the whole horizon; but look round you: see how that inhumanity is opening the eyes of men at home and abroad to the true character of this rebellion.
But there is another view of this matter no less encouraging. It is not in my heart to breathe one syllable in disparagement of the departed. I know it is the opinion of many that the heart now forever at rest was too tender for the stern work of punishing evil-doers. But I am not so sure of that. Never yet has he been found wanting either in appreciating the duties of the hour, or in meeting its demands. The great trouble has been in the popular feeling, that if the rebellion could only be put down, it was expedient to be generous, and forget the past. The idea has been that it would be magnanimous to forgive, and let traitors go unwhipt of justice. Magnanimous indeed! Is it magnanimity to efface the brand of infamy from treason? Methinks it has not produced such pleasant fruit these last four years as to merit a better standing than before. Is it magnanimous to approve the effort of traitors to destroy our country--an effort held back from success only by the lifeblood of thousands of her bravest sons? If this be magnanimity, may God keep you and me from so great a crime.
I said that public sentiment stood in the way of our departed President, and hindered his performance of duty here; but his death has transformed that public sentiment. In murdering him, rebels removed the last barrier that stood between them and retribution. They struck down their kindest benefactor. They turned a latitudinarian public sentiment that cared nothing for justice, provided it enjoyed
It is a significant fact that at this moment Providence has called to the chair, so sadly vacated, a man who thus expresses his views and purposes: "I am in favor of lenity, but in my opinion evildoers ought to be punished." "Treason stands highest in the catalogue of crimes." "The halter to intelligent, influential traitors; but to the honest man, deluded into the rebel ranks, I would show mercy." Later, "Let it be engraven on every heart, that treason is a crime, and traitors shall suffer its penalty."
Take it, my hearers, as a mark of Divine favor, that in a day like this, He calls a man to be the President of our country who advances sentiments like these. Let us cherish revenge towards no man; but if blood must be shed, it is better that it should be that of the evil-doer; better that traitors should suffer, as a warning to those who may be hereafter tempted to tread in their steps, than that the loyal families of our land should be devoted to another decimation. A wiser, holier, and more loving heart than yours or mine has said, "It must needs be that offences come, but woe unto that man by whom they come;" let us be content to echo the words of Jesus: "Woe to the offender, rather than to those who do not offend." God punishes because he is holy and benevolent, and he requires rulers to do the same, as his ministers, because that course is holy and benevolent--a terror to evildoers, and a praise to them that do well. You and I cannot be wiser or more
Four years ago we did not dare to hope that God would be acknowledged in our land as He is to-day; that our coins would bear the inscription, "In God we trust;" that our rulers would implore the prayers of Christians; that our victories would be ascribed to God. But see what hath God wrought! Yet one thing was lacking--a reverent regard to justice. The current of public sentiment ran strong in the opposite direction. It seemed as if the whole people would be content with victory, and utter no solemn testimony against treason. The very proposition would have been hooted down as bigoted fanaticism. But by one touch what a change! Surely if Abraham Lincoln looks down to-day on the change his death has wrought, he feels that he has accomplished something by his death as well as by his life Let us give to his successor the confidence and love that we gave to him, and seek to turn the rushing stream out of the channel of blind revenge into that of holy, loving loyalty to God and right.
Preached on the Sabbath after the Assassination.
Gen. v, 5: And all the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years, and he died.
MAN was formed of the dust of the ground, and so was named Adam: i.e., red earth. Was it not intended that thus his name should be a constant memento of the word, "Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return"? It may seem inconsistent with this that he should live through the long period of nine hundred and thirty years. Think of it, not far from ten centuries--nearly one--sixth of the whole period from his creation till this moment. He lived to see his posterity of the eighth generation. Lamech, the father of Noah, was fifty-six years old when Adam, his first parent, died. It was a long life indeed, and yet were not the words of David true even then, that its strength was labor and sorrow. Think of those nine hundred and thirty years, commenced in Eden, but spent and ended in a world cursed through his transgression. There must have been something very sad in that curse, for even Lamech said of his little babe, "This child shall comfort us concerning our work
It might not be profitable to dwell on the life and death of our first parent. For we know so little of the incidents that filled up those nine hundred and thirty years, that we can only imagine what they were. But we need not go so far away. These emblems of mourning point us to a recent bereavement. We find it difficult to day to keep our minds away from our great loss, and so while on Wednesday we gave ourselves up to meditation on the fact as citizens, today let us look at it as those to whom it is appointed once
The death of our beloved President, then, admonishes us that exalted station is no shield from death. Men sometimes have the feeling that while ordinary mortals die, those lifted up to responsible positions have a firmer hold on life; that Providence owes it to such to give them a longer lease of earth; that as so much more depends on them, so they should have a longer time in which to form their plans and carry them out. But if any of us have indulged such thoughts for a moment, how are we rebuked to-day! God is no respector of persons. Both high and low, rich and poor together--the ruler and his people--must go whenever God shall call them, and go, too, at the moment, without delay. And if it was so with him on whom rested so much of responsibility and such great interests, much more is it true of us. As with a trumpet voice this Providence says to you and me, "Prepare to meet thy God."
There is another feeling somewhat akin to this, which leads us to expect that a man zealously engaged in a good work will be allowed to finish it; that if it involve the welfare of millions of his fellowmen, and he prosecutes it with rare discretion or unusual success, God will not suffer him to be interrupted, but will ward off danger till the undertaking be complete. But does our recent bereavement endorse such views? Does it tell us that if we would secure long life, we must diligently engage in some work indispensable to human wellbeing, and so secure safety till the work be carried through? Nay, my hearers; but it tells us
After these things, I need not speak of that very common but far less reasonable feeling, that when, after passing through much tribulation, our feet are on the verge of quiet enjoyment, God will surely suffer us to live to see it; or that when, through much toil and suffering, we have earned the love of our fellowmen, God will spare us to enjoy that love. Look on yon casket, containing all that is left of the man whom the nation delighted to honor--the man of our affections, and in whom our hearts did safely trust,--and read what it saith concerning such hopes. After long and patient toil we may say to our souls: "Soul! thou hast much good laid up for many years; take shine ease." But another may say: "Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee."
So, too, we may have said, Life is indeed uncertain, but God will give me some warning ere he takes it away. He may not allow me to finish the undertaking in which I am engaged, but He will let me know when He would have me
But let this Providence speak--"The Lord said unto Moses, get thee up into this Mount Abarim, and see the land which I have given unto the children of Israel, and when thou hast seen it, thou shalt be gathered unto thy people." But did He give any such warning to our beloved President? Was there any hint such as was given to good king Hezekiah, when the Lord said unto him--"Set thy house in order?" We speak of sudden death. But think of never knowing that we are in danger,--never being conscious of a stroke or a pain, till the soul recovers consciousness in the presence of its Judge. Has such a Providence no voice to you and me, and every soul in this great nation? Oh, that it might be heeded! Oh, that along with the universal grief might be a heart to hear the voice of Him who says, "Be ye therefore ready also, for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of Man cometh."
And here I am constrained to turn aside a moment to another lesson of this great national sorrow: From whatever side we view it, we are appalled by its magnitude. Like some lofty peak that rises so far above the rest of the mountain range that it seems to stand alone, so does this bereavement overtop all similar distresses; but among all its other aggravations, we cannot forget the scene where it occurred. Fain would our affection have chosen some other
Through such a crime, in such a place, by such a hand, God points us to those words of Jesus: "By their fruits ye shall know them;" and bids us decide which we shall choose for our children--the education of the theatre or of the church: of the book of plays, or the book of God. On this side, are clever counterfeits of vice and virtue for amusement, thrilling scenes that move to tears, and exhaust, in selfish excitements, the sensibility God meant should prompt us to noble deeds. On that, is a daily taking up the cross, a steady conflict with evil, that makes meet for an inheritance among the saints in light. Here is the training for adultery, treason and murder. There is the training to be like Christ, and be with Him where He is.
Some may fear that the death of so good a man in such a place may draw multitudes within its gates. But the fact that it trained his assassin for that deed of blood; that it blinded him to its damning infamy so as to glory in shame, from which a good conscience would have shrunk
We speak of being prepared for sudden death. It has become a stereotyped phrase, "so to live every day as if it were our last;" but have we a definite idea of what such a life involves? It is not a few hasty prayers sandwiched between a life of ungodliness and our appearance before the Judge. It is not a flood of tears shed over a life up to that moment spent in deliberate disobedience. Nor is it a regular round of Pharisaic devotion that leaves us where it found us--prayer preceding, following, and enclosing round about, unvarying sinfulness. But it is the discharge of daily duties as so much service owed to God. It is whether we eat or drink, or whatever we do, doing all to the glory of God. Is the merchant who indulges through the day in what are so pertly called "the tricks of trade," but which are in fact so many sins against God and our neighbor--is he ready at night to hear Christ knock and open unto him immediately? Is the man who to-day curtly refuses the claims of missions, or stops his ears to the cry of so many millions of freedmen for the gospel, ready to give in his account to-night to Him who knows each expenditure for luxury, and each new investment? How easy it is to steel the heart to God's commands in the daily life, and then in His house harden the same heart against His truth, so as to go forth and renew the disobedience of Saturday on Monday morning.
On this point the life of our martyred President speaks as loudly as his death. Says one who knew him intimately ever since he entered on the duties of the office he performed so well, and here I condense somewhat the testimony of his pastor, Rev. Dr. Gurley:
"He deserved the confidence and love of the nation by the whole tenor and spirit of his life. Always and everywhere he endeavored to be right and to do right. His integrity was thorough and incorruptible, all pervading and all controlling. It was the same in great things and in small, in every place and in every relation. When he assumed the presidency he saw his duty as the leader of a great and imperilled people, and determined to do the whole of it, leaning on the arm of Him who "giveth power to the faint, and to them that have no might increaseth strength," we admired his child-like simplicity, his perfect freedom from guile, his forgiving temper, his persistent devotion to every duty of his high position, his readiness to hear the cause of the poor and the oppressed, his charity toward those who questioned the correctness of his course; his large philanthropy, that knew no distinction of race, but looked on all men as brethren; his unswerving purpose that what freedom had gained should not be lost, and that the end of war should be the end of slavery. All these things commanded our admiration; but holier and more lovely than all of these was his abiding confidence in God, and in final triumph, through Him and for His sake. This was the secret alike of his strength and his success, and by this
So did President Lincoln perform the duties of each day; and so through trust in the atoning blood of Jesus was he prepared to die. God grant that while we seek to be found in Christ, not having our own righteousness, but that which is through the faith of Christ, we do not forget those words of our Great Example, "I have glorified Thee on the earth. I have finished the work which Thou gavest me to do." For in like manner God has given a work to every one of us. He has not given the same to all, but to each one his own work, for which he and not another is responsible. There is one work to the man of property, and another to the man of mind, and to no individual in the two classes is there precisely the same. There is one to the leader in society and another to the follower; one to the mother and another to the daughter. The duties of no two persons are identical, but they are assigned by One who perfectly knows our capacities and opportunities. Their performance is watched by One whose eye suffers nothing to escape its notice--neither the positive transgression nor the unperformed requirement. And judgment will be pronounced on all by One who has left it on record, "To him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin." Think of these things, and in the light of that instant arrest of thought and speech and consciousness Friday before last, see how far those of us who profess to obey Christ are obeying his command, "Be ye therefore ready also, for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of Man cometh." We have need to do this, for God will not regard vain excuses. Nor will He
And ye who make no profession, look after the fatal stroke, at that heaving breast, that unconscious brain, and think what had become of him had the work of preparation for eternity been put of till then? And is your preparation all made? If not what security have you that your death will not be as sudden, that your sick bed will not be equally incapable of thought and feeling. God is not shut up to one method of arresting mental activity. And have you any claim, that Abraham Lincoln had not, to a continuance of consciousness even to the last?
Finally, my hearers, this event is eminently fitted to correct some popular errors concerning death. One of these errors is, to search the death-bed for evidences of piety rather than the life. But where does the Bible sanction such a course? Does it describe the death-bed of Paul, or the beloved disciple? Does it record the dying experience of Moses on the top of Pisgah? or of Joshua, his successor? Look at the lamp of David going out amid the senilities of second childhood, or at the good Josiah, slain in his chariot
Another popular error is an expectation that everything pleasant and peaceful will attend the death of the righteous. But it is of the wicked that it is written, "There are no bands in their death--their strength is firm." And how many of the people of God have perished by the hand of violence, in foul dungeons, and at fiery stakes, and "others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; they were stoned; they were sawn asunder; were tempted; were slain with the sword; they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented." Go ask the noble army of martyrs whether a death even of shame and insult be a token of perdition. Then enter many a house of luxury, and enquire whether death in tapestried chambers and amid all the alleviations of earthly love and wealth, be a token of salvation.
My hearers, even in death man looketh on the outward appearance, but God looketh on the heart, and on its preparation for heaven--not the physical comforts of a dying hour. What are all the comforts of the home of Dives, if they end in perdition? What are all the discomforts of the death of Lazarus--I do not say death bed, for he may not have had one--if all ended in Abraham's bosom? What is
And you who do not call yourselves disciples--you who do not look to Jesus as your Saviour--think what would all his well-earned fame, what would all this affection, this universal mourning avail for our beloved President, if he were not washed from his sins in the blood of Jesus? And will you live longer without coming to Him, that you too may have this life? Come to Him, and He will give you grace to live, grace to die, and then share with you His home and His throne in glory. Few will ever become Presidents of these United States; very few will ever be mourned for as Abraham Lincoln is mourned to-day. But "as many as receive Christ unto them does He give power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name," yea, He makes every one of them kings and priests unto God, and they shall reign with Him forever. Shall we not accept this grace, so that, finding us ready to open unto Him immediately, He shall welcome us into the kingdom prepared for us from the foundation of the world?