페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

enemy. When magnificent statues, and stately trophies, were erected to their honour, Death laughed them to scorn, and mocked at their foolish vanity; the rich marbles whereon so many proud titles were engraved, covering nothing but a little rotten flesh, and a few bones which Death hath broken and reduced to ashes.

We read, in the Revelation of the prophet Daniel, that king Nebuchadnezzar saw in a dream, a great image, whose brightness was excellent, and the form thereof terrible ; “ Its head was of fine gold, its breast “and arms were of silver, its belly and thighs of brass, “its legs of iron, and its feet partly of iron and partly “of clay.” Dan. ii. 32, 33. As this mighty prince was beholding it with astonishment, a little stone, cut out of a mountaio without hands, smote the feet of this prodigious statue, which were of iron and clay, and broke them to pieces; not only the iron and clay were broken but also the gold, the silver, and the brass ; and it all became as chaff which the wind driveth away. Psal. i. 4. This mysticalimage represents the four universal monarchies of the world, that of Babylon, that of the Medes and the Persians, that of the Greeks and that of the Romans. It likewise represents to us the vanity and inconstancy of all things under the sun. For what is all the pomp, glory, power, and dignity of this life, but a smoke driven with the wind, and a vapour that soon vanishes? It is like a shadow that flies from us, or like a dream that quickly fades away. When man, who was created in the image of God, makes his appearance from the dust, he struts about a little while, and becomes formidable; but as soon as Death strikes at his earthly parts, and begins to break his flesh and his bones, all the pomp and power, all the glory and magnificence of the richest,

most victorious, and most terrible monarch, is changed into a loathsome stench, turns to ashes, and is reduced to nothing. “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity!" Eccles. i. 2.

Since therefore Death is so cruel as to spare pone, and its power so great that none can either escape or resist, it is no wonder that it becomes so terrible, and fills with fear, anguish, and despair, the minds of all such as have not settled their faith and hope upon God. There is no criminal so hardened but trembles, and is seized with horror, when he sees the scaffold erecting upon which he is condemned to be broken upon the wheel, or when he sees in the fire the red-hot irons with which he is to be pinched to death.

In the midst of a sumptuous banquet, king Belshazzar saw the fingers of a man's hand writing these words upon the walls of his palace, “MENE, MENE,

TEKEL, UPHARSIN;" which is thus interpreted by the prophet Daniel, “ MENE, God hath numbered

thy kingdom, and finished it; TEKEL, thou art "weighed in the balances, and art found wanting; PE“RES, OR UPHARSIN, thy kingdom is divided, and

given to the Medes and Persians.” Daniel v. The moment this great monarch cast his eyes upon this miraculous writing, “his countenance was changed, and “ his thoughts troubled him, so that the joints of his loins “were loosed, and his knees smote one against another." How much greater cause, then, has the profane and worldly man to be seized with horror and dismay, who In the midst of his vain pomp and deceitful pleasures, may perceive the frightful hand of Death writing on every wall in his house, in capital letters, and even engraving on his forehead, that “God hath numbered

[ocr errors]

his days,” and that this in which he breathes shall be soon followed by an eternal night! That God hath weighed bim in the balance of justice, and found him light as the wind; and that the almighty disposer of all things, to whom vengeance belongs, will soon disrobe him of all his glory and riches, to clothe therewith his enemies! It is certain no comfort can be found for those wretched sinners, who not only understand this to be their dreadful sentence, but also hear the thundering voice of the Sovereign Judge of the world, exasperated by their iniquities. They see hell open its mouth to receive them, and the fiery chains already prepared which shall confine them to all eternity! They even now feel the hands of their tormentors, who drag them to punishment, and see themselves stretched and tortured in that horrible place, where there is nothing but “weep“ing and gnashing of teeth.” Matth. xxii. 13. Even here they feel the fierce approaches of that lake of fire and brimstone, which is “the second death.” Rev. xx. 14; and it may be justly said of these unhappy wretches, that hell comes to them before they go to hell; and that in this life they have a foretaste of the grievous torments that wait them in the next. Hence it comes to pass, that some of them offer violence to themselves and perpetrate an unnatural murder upon their own persons, as if they were afraid they should not be cut off by a hand wicked enough. The expectation of death is more jptolerable to them than death itself; and they had rather cast themselves headlong into the bottomless pit of hell, than endure the terrors and fears of it in their guilty consciences; to be delivered from the flashes of hell-fire, that mount up to their souls in this life, they plunge themselves, with a brutal fury, into everlasting burnings.

What is still more terrible, these horrors, agonies, and fears, that seize upon the wicked, are not for a moment. As a criminal, who knows there is a sentence of death pronounced against him, has continually before his eyes the torments preparing for him: If he hears his prison-door unlock, or a fly buzzing about his ears, he presently concludes they are coming to drag him to execution; in some sense, he desires what he dreads, and hastens the approaches of that which he wishes to avoid, but cannot. So desperate sinners whom

bao abandoned who know there is a sentence of realities were sadly at variance with its idced against them in the court of

Should be call up then defective, disto. bilitated and ghastly varieties? He could at from this sentence there is no could not even expatiate on the difference e in perpetual fear. They have the cripple who looked from his threshold, hunter who climbed the mountain-betweer eyes the hideous form of death, which was entranced by the softest sigh of Irouble, and wakes in their breasts lat which took no note of the nearest and To use St. Paul's expression, under-between the tongue which had for er vocal with the music and eloquence deb. ii. 15; that is to say, they are the stillness of a sepulchre, and that whath they are all their lifetime sub

had taught it--or, between the eye w} the edge of the precipice but a step beable slaves, that continually tremble t which read the star bymns written ands of a merciless tyrant. s of Omnipotence on the farthest wi nple of Immensity

are some Atheists who talk of death Vhat

, then, he asked, "is our mental cof contempt, and make an open prolat is its ideal?” He described it a nderful; and this portion of the lectu.ng afraid of it, nevertheless they bear prest, and was characterized by some secret thorns, which often galls hest order. He defined the condit constitution, and then alluded to rrors and apprehensions, which racks ution and its ideel, wbich he them, in spite of all their bravadoes. It oderful. "If," he said, "it be

is true, ivi bere most part, they boast loudly of not being afraid of death, and make a mock at it, when they believe it at a distance from them ; but then,

upon

its

approach, these very wretches are the first that turn pale, and shew their cowardice and despair. If there be any that laugh at death, it is only in ap

D 1

ܪ

pearance, or it is, as it were, a laughter upon the lips. They are like a new-born infant, which while it seems to smile, is inwardly tormented in the bowels; or like those that eat of the famous herb, mentioned by the naturalists, which causes a pleasant smile to wanton upon the lips, while it conveys a mortal poison to the heart.

In short, if there be any who die unconcerned, or without any terror upon their conscience, they must be either persons entirely stupid and brutal, like a drunkard who is thrown from a precipice when fast asleep; or they must be such buffoon souls as resemble those merry criminals that go dancing to the gallows; or else they must be such as are transported with rage and despair, who may properly enough be compared to a wild boar, that, rushing forward with a blind fury, throws himself into the huntsman's toil. Such monsters deserve not to be reckoned in the number of rational creatures.

CHAPTER II.

That in all the philosophy of the Heathens there is no

true and solid comfort against the fears of death.

THERE are certain pretenders to physic, who appear at first sight very knowing, and talk of diseases with a good deal of acuteness and subtilty, but nevertheless are shamefully ignorant at the bottom, and very unfortunate in their practice. Their unseasonable learning disturbs the patient more than their remedies ease him, and they themselves are a new disease and an additional affliction.

.

« 이전계속 »