THE OBJECTS, GROUNDS, AND EVIDENCES OF THE HOPE OF THE RIGHTEOUS.
" The wicked is driven away in his wickedness; but the righteous hath hope in his death."—Prow. xiv. 82. •
To creatures that are placed here a few years upon trial for an everlasting state, it is of the greatest importance how they make their departure hence. The gloomy hour of death is nature's last extremity; it stands in need of some effectual support, and that support can proceed from nothing then present, but only from reviews and prospects: from the review of past life, so spent as to answer the end of life, and from the prospect of a happy immortality to follow upon this last struggle.
Now men will love the world according to their conduct in it, and be happy or miserable hereafter according to their improvement of the present state of trial. "The wicked is driven away in his wickedness," says the wisest of men, "but the righteous hath hope in his death." "The wicked is driven away in his wickedness"—he dies as he lived : he lived in wickedness, and in wickedness he dies. His wickedness remains with him, when his earthly enjoyments, his friends, and all created comforts leave him for ever. The guilt of his wickedness lies heavy upon him, like a mountain of lead, ready to sink him into the depth of misery. And the principles of wickedness which he indulged in his life still live within him, even in the agonies of death; nay, they now arrive at a dreadful immortality, and produce an eternal hell in his breast. He leaves behind him not only all his earthly comforts, but all the little remains of goodness he seemed to have, while under the restraints of divine grace, and he carries nothing but his wickedness along with him. With this dreadful . attendant he must pass to the tribunal of his Judge. To leave his earthly all behind him, and die in the agonies of dissolving nature—this is terrible. But to die in his wickedness—this is infinitely the most terrible of all!
He once flattered himself, that though he lived in wickedness, he should not die in it. He adopted many resolutions to amend and forsake his wickedness, towards the close of life, or upon a death-bed. But how is he disappointed ? After all his promising purposes and hopes, he died as he lived, in wickedness. This is generally the case of veterans in sin. They are resolving and re-resolving to reform all their lives, but after all they die the same. They purpose to prepare for death and eternity, but they have always some objections against the present time. They have always something else to do to-day, and therefore they put off this work till to-morrow—to-morrow comes, and instead of reforming, they die in their wickedness— to-morrow comes and they are in hell. Oh! that the loiterers of this generation would take warning from the ruin of thousands of their unhappy ancestors who have perished by the dread experiment! Hearers, are not some of you in danger of splitting upon the same rock ? Are not some of you conscious that if you should die this moment you would die in your wickedness ? And yet you have very little fear of dying in this manner. No; you purpose yet to become good, and prepare for death before you die. So thousands purposed as strongly as you, who are now in hell. The time of repentance was still a hereafter to them, till it was irrecoverably past. They were snatched away unexpectedly by the sudden hand of death, and knew not where they were till they found themselves in eternity, and thus they had no time for this work; or their thoughts were so much engrossed with their pains that they had no composure for it; or they found their sins, by long indulgence, were become invincibly strong, their hearts judicially hardened, and all the influences of divine grace withdrawn, so that the work became impossible. And thus they died in their sins.
" The wicked is driven away in his wickedness"—driven away in spite of all his reluctance. Let him cling to life never so fast, yet he must go. All his struggles are vain, and cannot add one moment to his days. Indeed, the wicked have so little taste for heaven, and are so much in love with this world, that if they leave it at all, they must be driven out of it—driven out of it whether they will or not. When they hope for heaven, they do in reality consider it but a shift or a refuge when they can no longer live in this their favorite world. They do not at all desire it, in comparison with this world. But they must eventually let go their hold. They must be driven away, like chaff before the whirlwind—driven away into the regions of miser}7—into the regions of misery, I say; for certainly the happiness of heaven was never intended for such as are so disaffected to it, and that prefer this wretched world, with all its cares and sorrows, before heaven itself.
This is the certain doom of the wicked; but who are they ? Though the character be so common among us, yet there are few that will own it. It is an odious character, and therefore few will take it to themselves. But there is no room for flattery in the case, and, therefore, we must inquire who are the wicked ? I answer, all that habitually indulge themselves in the practice of any known wickedness—all that neglect the God that made them, and the Saviour that bought them—all that live in the willful omission of the known duties of religion and morality— all that have never known by experience what it is to repent and believe; in a word, all that are in their natural state, and have never felt a change of spirit and practice, so great and important that it may be called, with propriety, a new birth, or a new creation—all such, without exception, are wicked. They are wicked in reality and in the sight of Grod, however righteous they may be in their own eyes, or however unblamably some of them may conduct themselves before men. And are there not some such in this assembly ? Is this assembly so glorious and happy a rarity as not to have one wicked person in it ? Alas! I am afraid the most generous charity cannot indulge such a hope. May you make an impartial inquiry into a matter so important! and if you find the character of the wicked yours, believe it, you must share in the dreadful doom of the wicked if you continue such.
But I proceed to that part of my text, which I intend to make the principal subject of this discourse. " The righteous hath hope in his death." To have hope in death is to have hope in the most desperate extremity of human nature. Then the spirits flag and the heart sinks, and all the sanguine hopes of blooming health and prosperity vanish. Then all hopes from things below—all expectations of happiness from all things under the sun, are cut off. All hopes of escaping the arrest of death are fled when the iron grasp of its cold hand is felt. Even in these hopeless circumstances the righteous man hath hope. The foundation of his hope must be well laid, it must be firm indeed when it can stand such shocks as these. It is evident the objects of this hope must lie beyond the grave; for on this side of it all is hopeless. His friends and physician despair of him, and he despairs of himself as to all the prospects of the mortal life. But he does not despair of a happier life in another state; no, he hopes to live and be happy, when the agonies of death are over; and this hope bears him up under them. This hope I intend to consider as to its objects, its grounds and evidences, and its various degrees and limitations.
First, I am to consider the objects of the righteous man's hope in death. And here I shall only mention his hope of support in death—of the immortality of the soul—of the resurrection of his body—and of perfect happiness in heaven.
In the first place, The righteous man has a humble hope of support in death. He has repeatedly intrusted himself into the faithful hands of an almighty Saviour for life and death, for time and eternity, and he humbly hopes his Saviour will not forsake him now—now, when he must need his assistance. This was St. Paul's support under the prospect of his last hour: " I know in whom I have believed, and I am persuaded he is able to keep that I have committed unto him against that day." As if he had said, finding my own weakness, I have committed my all into another hand; and I have committed it to one whose ability and faithfulness have been tried by thousands, as well as myself; and therefore I am confident he will keep the sacred depositum, and never suffer it to be injured or lost. This was also the support of the Psalmist; " Though I walk," says he, " through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me." Yea, it was upon this support St. Paul leaned when he braved death, in that triumphant language, " "Who shall separate us from the love of God ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword ? No; in all these things we are more than conquerors, dog or a stone when they die. Unhappy creatures! howare they to be pitied! and were it not for the universal benevolence of that religion which they despise, how justly would they be contemned and abhorred! They are men of pleasure now; they are merry, jovial, and gay, and give a loose to all their licentious passions and appetites. But how short, how sordid, how brutal the pleasure! how gloomy, how low, how shocking their highest hope! Their highest hope is to be as much nothing in a few years or moments hence as they were ten thousand years ago. They are men of pleasure, who would lose all their pleasures if they were angels in heaven, but would lose none of them if they were swine in the mire. Blessed be God, this gloomy hope is not the hope which the religion of Jesus inspires. No, " He hath brought life and immortality to light by the gospel." He opens to the departing soul the endless prospects of a future state of being—a state where death shall no more make such havoc and desolations among the works of God, but where every thing is vital and immortal. Hence the righteous man hath hope in his death. He has not made it best for him that his religion should be false. He is not driven to seek for shelter in the gulf of annihilation, nor to combat with the blessed hopes which reason and revelation unitedly inspire as his worst enemies. He wishes and hopes to live for ever, that he may for ever enjoy the generous pleasure of serving his God, and doing good to his fellow-creatures. This is not a pleasing error, but a pleasing truth ; nay, I had almost said, a pleasing demonstration. Such it proves to the righteous man; for oh! how pleasing to the offspring of the dust to claim immortality as his inalienable inheritance! How transporting to a soul just ready to take its flight from the quivering lips of the dissolving clay to look forward through everlasting ages of felicity and call them all its own! to defy the stroke of death, and smile at the impotent malice of the gaping grave! O what a happiness, what a privilege is this! and this is what the righteous man in some measure enjoys.
Thirdly, The righteous in death has the hope of the resurrection of the body. This glorious hope we owe entirely to revelation. The ancient philosophers could never discover it by their reason; and when it was discovered by a superior light, they ridiculed it as the hope of worms. But this is a reviving hope to the righteous in the agonies of death. Those old intimate friends, the soul and body, that must now part with so much reluctance, shall again meet and be united in inseparable bonds. The righteous man does not deliver up his body as the eternal prey of worms, or the irredeemable prisoner of the grave ; but his hope looks forward to the glorious dreadful morning of the resurrection, and sees the bonds of death bursting; the prison of the grave flying open; the mouldering dust collected, and formed into a human body once more—a human body, most gloriously improved. This prospect affords a very agreeable support m death, and enables the righteous to say with Job, though I die, " I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth ; and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God." This corruptible shall put on incorruption, and this mortal shall put on immortality, and death shall be swallowed up in victory. O death! where is thy sting ? O grave! where is thy victory ? This is an illustrious victory indeed—a victory over the conqueror of conquerors, and of all the sons of Adam. And yet thus victorious shall the frail dying believer be made over that terror of human nature.
Fourthly, The perfect and everlasting happiness of heaven is an object of the righteous man's hope in death. He hopes to drop all his sins and their attendant train of sorrows behind him, and to be perfectly holy, and consequently happy, for ever. He hopes to see his God and Saviour, and to spend a happy eternity in society with him and in his service. He hopes to join the company of angels and of his fellow-saints of the human race. He hopes to improve in knowledge, in holiness, and in capacities for action and enjoyment, in an endless gradation. He hopes to " see the face of God in righteousness; and to be satisfied when he awakes with his image." Oh, what a glorious hope is this! This has made many a soul welcome death with open arms. This has made them " desirous to be with Christ, which is far better." Indeed, without this, immortality would be an object of terror, and not of hope; the prospect would be insupportably dreadful. For who can bear the thought of an immortal duration spent in an eternal banishment from God and all happiness, and in the sufferance of the most exquisite pain! But a happy immortality, what can charm us more!
Having thus shown you some of the principal objects of a good man's hope in death, I now proceed, r
Secondly, To show you what are the grounds and evidences of such a hope.
It is evident it is not every kind of hope that is intended in my text; it is a hope peculiar to toe righteous; and it is a hope that shall never be disappointed or put to shame. Job speaks of the hope of the hypocrite; and one greater than Job tells us, that many will carry their false hopes with them to the tribunal of their Judge. When he assures them he never knew them, they hardly think him in earnest: " Strange! dost thou not know us r Have we not eat and drunk in thy presence, and hast thou not taught in our streets ?" St. Paul also tells us, that while some are crying peace and safety, and apprehending no danger, then sudden destruction cometh upon them. This is likewise evidently confirmed by observation: for how often do we find in fact, that many not only hope for immortality, but for immortal happiness, who give no evidence at all of their title to it, but many of the contrary ? Here, then, is a very proper occasion for self-examination. Since there are so many false hopes among mankind, we should solicitously inquire whether ours will stand the test. To assist us in this inquiry let us consider what are the peculiar grounds and evidences of the righteous man's hope.
Now it will be universally granted, that God best knows whom he will admit into heaven, and whom he will exclude—that it is his province to appoint the ground of our hope, and that constitution according to which we may be saved—that none can be saved but those who have the characters which he has declared essentially necessary to salvation, and that none shall perish who have those characters. And hence it follows, that the righteous man's hope is entirely regulated by the divine constitution, and the declarations of that holy word which alone gives us certain information in this case. This, I say, is the grand test of a true hope: it expects what God has promised; and it expects it in the way and manner established by him. It is a humble submissive hope: it does not expect happiness, as it were, in spite of him who 350
it. God has declared, in the plainest and strongest terms, that no drunkard, nor swearer, nor fornicator, nor any similar characters, shall inherit his kingdom; and yet what crowds of drunkards, swearers, fornicators, and the like, will maintain their hopes of heaven in spite of these declarations. He has declared, with the utmost solemnity, that " except a man be born again, he cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven." And yet what multitudes presume to hope they shall enter there, though they still continue in their natural state, and have no evidence at all of their being born again? God has declared, that "except we repent, we shall all perish," like the infidel Jews; and that " he that believeth not shall be damned." And yet how many hope to be saved, though they have never felt the kindly relentings of ingenuous, evangelical repentance, nor the work of faith with power wrought upon their hearts? What can be more plain than that declaration, " without holiness, no man shall see the Lord ?" And yet multitudes that hate holiness in their hearts hope to be saved as well as your precise and sanctified creatures as they call them. In short, the hopes of many are so far from being supported by the authority of the Scriptures, that they are supported only by the supposition of their being false. If the Scriptures be true, then they and their hopes must perish together; but if the Scriptures be false, then they have some chance to be saved, though it is but a very dull chance after all; for if they have to do with a lying, deceitful Deity, they have no ground at all of any confidence in him; they must be anxiously uncertain what they should hope, or what they should fear, from his hands. Hence you see that we should vindicate the truth of God in these declarations, even by way of self-defence; for if the divine veracity fail in one instance, it becomes doubtful in every instance, and we have nothing left to depend upon. If they may be saved, whom God has declared shall perish, then, by a parity of reason, they may perish whom he has characterized as the heirs of salvation; and consequently there is no certainty that any will be saved at all. Thus sinners, while establishing their own false hopes, remove all ground of hope, and leave us in the most dreadful suspense.
Brethren! let us regulate our hopes according to his declaration, who has the objects of our hope entirely at his disposal. When we pretend to improve upon divine constitutions, or, as we think, turn them in our favor, we do in reality but ruin them, and turn them against ourselves. Make that, and that only, the ground and evidence of your hope which God has made such. His constitution will stand, and you shall be judged according to it, whether you will or not. Do not make that the ground or evidence of your hope which he has not so made, or which he has pronounced the characteristic of the heirs of hell. You hope, perhaps, to be saved, though you live in the willful neglect of some known duty, or in the willful practice of some known sin. But has God given you any reason for such a hope ? You know he has not, but the contrary. You hope he will show mercy to you, because his nature is mercy and love, and he is the compassionate Father of his creatures, or because Christ has died for sinners. But has he given you any assurances that because he is merciful, because he is so compassionate a Father, because Christ has died for sinners, therefore he will save you in your present condition ? You hope to be saved, because you are as good as the generality, or perhaps better than many around you. But has God made this a sufficient ground of hope ? Has he told you that to be fashionably religious is to be sufficiently religious, or that the way of the multitude leads to life ? This may be your hope; but is it the authentic declaration of eternal Truth"? You know it is not, but quite the contrary. I might add sundry other instances of unscriptural hope; but these may suffice as a specimen. And I shall lay down this general rule, which will enable yourselves to make further discoveries, namely, Those hopes are all false which are opposite to the declarations of God in his word. Certainly this needs no proof to such as believe the divine authority of the Scriptures.
Thirdly, To consider the various degrees and limitations of a good hope in death.
A good hope is always supported by evidence; and, according to the degree of evidence, is the degree of hope. When the evidence is clear and undoubted, then it rises to a joyful assurance; but when the evidence is dark and doubtful, then it wavers and is weakened by dismal fears and jealousies. Now, I have told you already, that the evidence of a good hope is a person's discovering, by impartial examination, that those characters which God has pronounced the inseparable characters of those that shall be saved, do belong to him; or that he has those graces and virtues which are, at once, his preparation for heaven and the evidence of his title to it. Now different believers, and even the same persons at different times, have very different degrees of this evidence. And the reason of this difference is, that sundry causes are necessary to make the evidence clear and satisfactory; and when any of these are wanting, or do not concur in a proper degree, then the evidence is dark and doubtful. In order to be fully satisfied of the truth and reality of our graces, it is necessary we should arrive at some eminence in them; otherwise, like a jewel in a heap of rubbish, they may be so blended with corruption that it may be impossible to discern them with certainty. Hence the weak Christian, unless he have unusual supplies of divine grace, enters the valley of the shadow of death with fear and trembling; whereas he who has made great attainments in holiness enters it with courage, or perhaps with transports of joy. It is also necessary to a full assurance of hope, that the Spirit of God bears witness with our spirit that we are the sons of God, or that he excites our graces to such a lively exercise as to render them visible by their effects, and distinguishable from all other principles. And, therefore, if a sovereign God see fit to withhold his influences from the dying saint, his graces will languish, his past experiences will appear confused and doubtful, and consequently his mind will be tossed with anxious fears and jealousies. But if*he be pleased to pour out his Spirit upon him, it will be like a ray of heavenly light to point out his way through the dark shades of death, and open to him the transporting prospects of eternal day that lie just before him.
Another thing that occasions a difference in this case is, that an assured hope is the result of frequent self-examination ; and, therefore, the Christian that has been diligent in this duty, and all his life been laboring to make all sure against -his last hour, generally enjoys the happy fruits of his past diligence, and enters the harbor of rest with sails full of the fair gales of hope; but he that has been negligent in this duty, is tossed with billows and tempests of doubts and fears, and is afraid of being shipwrecked in sight of the port.
It is also necessary to the enjoyment of a comfortable
hope in death, that the mind be in some measure calm and rational, not clouded with the glooms of melancholy or thrown into a delirium or insensibility by the violence of the disorder. And according as this is or is not the case, a good man may enjoy or not enjoy the comforts of hope.
These remarks will help us to discover with what limitations we are to understand my text, " The righteous hath hope in his death." It does not mean that every righteous man has the same degree of hope, or that no righteous man is distressed with fears and doubts in his last moments. But it means, in the
First place, That every righteous man has substantial reason to hope, whether he clearly see it or not. His eternal all is really safe; and as all the false hopes of the wicked cannot save him, so all his fears cannot destroy him, though they may afford him some transient pangs of horror. He is in the possession of a faithful God, who will take care of him, and nothing shall pluck him out of his hands. He sees fit to leave some of his people in their last moments to conflict at once with death and with their more dreadful fears ; but even this will issue in their real advantage. And what an agreeable surprise will it be to such trembling souls to find death has unexpectedly transported them to heaven!
Secondly, When it is said, " the righteous hath hope»in his death, it means, that good men, in common, do, in fact, enjoy a comfortable hope. In the greatest agonies of fear and suspicion, the trembling soul has still some glimmering hope to support it; and its gracious Saviour never abandons it entirely. And it is the more common case of the saints to enjoy more comfort and confidence in death than they were wont to do in life. Many that in life were wont to shudder at every danger, and fly at the sound of a shaking leaf, have been emboldened at death to meet the king of terrors, and to welcome his fiercest assault. The soldiers of Jesus Christ have generally left this mortal state in triumph, though this is not a universal rule. And who would not wish and pray for such an exit ? that he may do honor to his God and Saviour and to his religion with his last breath; that he may discover to the world that religion can bear him up, when all other supports prove a broken reed; and that his last words may sow the seeds of piety in the hearts of those that surround his dying bed; this every good man should pray and wish for, though it must be left in the hands of a sovereign God to do as he pleases.
Thirdly, When it is said, " the righteous hath hope in his death," it may mean, that the hope which he hath in death shall be accomplished. It is not a flattering, delusive dream, but a glorious reality, and, therefore, deserves the name. His "hope shall not make him ashamed," but shall be fulfilled and even exceeded.
This is the glorious peculiarity of the good man's hope. Many carry their hope with them to death, and will not give it up till they give up the ghost. But as it is ungrounded, it will end in disappointment and confusion. And oh! into what a terrible consternation will it strike them, to find themselves surrounded with flames when they expected to land on the blissful coasts of paradise! To find their judge and their conscience accusing and condemning, instead of acquitting them !—to find their souls plunged into hell under a strong guard of devils, instead of being conducted to heaven by a glorious convoy of angels!—to feel the pangs and horrors of everlasting despair succeed in an instant to the flattering prospect of delusive hope! Oh! what a shocking disappointment, what a terrible change is this!
Therefore now, my brethren, make sure work. Do not venture your souls upon the broken reed of false hope. But " give all diligence to make your calling and election sure." Now you may make a profitable discovery of your mistake; if your hope is ungrounded, you have now time and means to obtain a good hope through grace. But then it will be too late; your only chance, if I may so speak, will be lost, and you must for ever stand by the consequences. Why will you not labor to secure so important an interest, beyond all rational possibility of a disappointment ? Have you any thing else to do which is of greater, of equal, or comparable importance ? Do you think you will approve of this neglect upon a dying bed, or in the eternal world ?
Let this subject strengthen the hope of such of you, whose hope will stand the Scripture test. You must die, 'tis true; your bodies must be the food of worms; but be of good courage; your almighty and immortal Saviour will support you in the hour of your extremity, and confer immortality upon you. He will also quicken your mortal bodies, and reunite them to your souls, and make your whole persons as happy as your natures will admit.
Blessed be God, you are safe from all the fatal consequences of the original apostasy and your own personal sin. Death, the last enemy, which seems to survive all the rest, shall not triumph over you; but even death itself shall die, and be no more. Oh! happy people! who is like unto you, a people saved by the Lord.
Let me now conclude with a melancholy contrast; I mean the wretched condition of the wicked in a dying hour. Some of them, indeed, have a hope, a strong hope, which the clearest evidence cannot wrest from them. This may afford them a little delusive support in death; but, upon the whole, it is their plague; it keeps them from spending their last moments in seeking after a wellgrounded hope; and as soon as their souls are separated from their bodies, it exposes them to the additional confusion of a dreadful disappointment. Others of them lived like beasts, and like beasts they die; that is, as thoughtless, as stupid, about their eternal state, as the brutes that perish. Oh! what a shocking sight is the death-bed of such a stupid sinner! Others, who, with a great deal of pains, make a shift to keep their consciences easy in the gay hours of health and prosperity, when death and eternity stare them in the face, find this sleeping lion rousing, roaring, and tearing them to pieces. They had a secret consciousness before that they had no ground for a comfortable hope; but they suppressed the conviction and would not regard it. But now it revives, and they tremble with a fearful expectation of wrath and fiery indignation. This is especially the usual doom of such as lived under a faithful ministry, and have had a clear light of the gospel, and just notions of divine things forced upon their unwilling minds. It is not so easy for them, as for others, to flatter themselves with false hopes, in the honest, impartial hour of death. Their knowledge is a magazine of arms for their consciences to use to torment them. Oh! in what horrors do some of them die! and how much of hell do they feel upon earth!
Nay, this is sometimes the doom of some infidel profligates, who flattered themselves they could contemn the bugbear of a future state, even in death. They thought they had conquered truth and conscience, but they find themselves mistaken—they find these are insuppressible, victorious, immortal; and that, though with mountains overwhelmed, they will one day burst out like the smothered fires of ^Etna, visibly bright and tormenting. Of this the celebrated Dr. Young, whose inimitable pen embellishes whatever it touches, gives us a most melancholy instance, related in the true spirit of tragedy—an instance of a youth of noble birth, fine accomplishments, and large estate, who imbibed the infidel principles of deism, so fashionable in high life, and debauched himself with sensual indulgences; who, by his unkind treatment broke the heart of an amiable wife, and by his prodigality squandered away his estate, and thus disinherited his only son. Hear the tragical story from the author's own words.
" The death-bed of a profligate is next in horror to that abyss to which it leads. It has the most of hell that is visible on earth, and he that has seen it has more than faith, he has the evidence of sense to confirm him in his creed. I see it now! for who can forget it? Are there in it no flames and furies ? You know not, then, what a scared imagination can figure—what a guilty heart can feel. How dismal is it! The two great enemies of soul and body, sickness and sin, sink and confound his friends, silence and darken the shocking scene. Sickness excludes the light of heaven, and sin excludes the blessed hope. Oh! double darkness! more than Egyptian! acutely to be felt ! See! how he lies, a sad, deserted outcast, on a narrow isthmus, between time and eternity, for he is scarcely alive. Lashed and overwhelmed on one side, by the sense of sin, on the other by the dread of punishment! Beyond the reach of human help, and in despair of divine!
"His dissipated fortune, impoverished babe, and murdered wife lie heavy on him. The ghost of his murdered time, (for now no more is left,) all stained with folly and gashed with vice, haunts his distracted thought. Conscience, which long had slept, awakes, like a giant refreshed with wine, lays waste all his former thoughts and desires, and like a long deposed, now victorious prince, takes the severest revenges upon his bleeding heart. Its late soft whispers are thunder in his ears; and all means of grace rejected, exploded, ridiculed, are now the bolt that strikes him dead—dead even to the thoughts of death. In deeper
"Here his friend, too much affected, would have left him.
" ' No; stay. Thou still mayest hope;—therefore hear me. How madly have I talked! How madly hast thou listened and believed! But look upon my present state as a full answer to thee and to myself. This body is all weakness and pain ; but my soul, as if strung up by torment to greater strength and spirit, is full powerful to reason—full mighty to suffer. And that which thus triumphs within the jaws of mortality, is, doubtless, immortal. And as for a Deity, nothing less than an Almighty could inflict what I feel.'
"I was about to congratulate this passive, involuntary confessor, on asserting the two prime articles of his creed, the existence of God and the immortality of the soul, extorted by the rack of nature, when he thus, very passionately,
" ' No, no! Let me speak on. I have not long to speak. —My much-injured friend! My soul, as my body, lies in ruins, in scattered fragments of broken thought. Remorse for the past throws my thoughts on the future. Worse dread of the future strikes it back on the past. I turn and turn and find no ray. Didst thou feel half the mountain that is on me, thou wouldst struggle with the martyr for the stake and blesa Heaven for the flames: that is not an everlasting flame; that is not an unquenchable fire.'
" How were we struck ? Yet soon after still more. With an eye of distraction, with a face of despair, he cried out,
"' My principles have poisoned my friend; my extravagance has beggared my boy; my unkindness has murdered my wife! And is there another hell ? Oh! thou blasphemed yet most indulgent Lord God! hell is a refuge, if it hides me from thy frown.'
" Soon after his understanding failed. His terrified imagination uttered horrors not to be repeated or ever forgotten ; and ere the sun (which, I hope, has seen but few hkehim) arose, the gay, young, noble, ingenious, accomplished, and most wretched Altamont expired."
Is not this tragical instance a loud warning to us all, and especially to such of us as may be walking in the steps of this unhappy youth ? " Men may live fools, but fools they cannot die.' Death will make them wise, and show them
their true interest, when it is too late to secure it. Ignorance and thoughtlessness, or the principles of infidelity, may make men live like beasts; but these will not enable them to die like beasts. May we live as candidates for immortality ! May we now seek a well-established hope that will stand the severest trials! and may we labor to secure the protection of the Lord of life and death, who can be our sure support in the wreck of dissolving nature! May we live the life that we may die the death of the righteous, and find that dark valley a short passage into the world of bliss and glory! Amen.