Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

LONGING FOR A HIGHER LIFE.

445

Father's hand has scattered so profusely for the adornment of this our temporary habitation-can these compare with the scenery and the immortal blossoms of that heaven, of which Eden and the land of promise were but the types ?

Again, the exercise of the powers of the mind, be they great or small, is one of the highest enjoyments of earth. How will that enjoyment be enhanced and exalted, when all that now clouds the mind, and checks the desire for investigation, is removed-when the redeemed spirit is permitted to know God, and with that supreme knowledge also to take deep draughts from the inexhaustible fount of all true science -the knowledge of God's works of Creation, of Providence and of Redemption! Then light, of which we can now enjoy only a faint glimmering, will be poured into our souls without measure, and yet without satiety.

And more than this, those affections, that holy love, and Christian friendship and family attachment, which are now our chief joy, and the best treasure left to us from the Fall, how will those affections be all purified and perpetuated, be made to increase our happiness a hundredfold, in a world where there will be no partings, no jealousies, and no misunderstandings; but where love will be perfect, being a reflection from Him who is the God of Love ?

Why then fear death, which is to the redeemed sinner the gate of heaven; the admission to those joys “ which eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man to conceive ?”

Why fear death, which is to free Christ's people from this world of care ? And what is this world but a prison to the immortal aspiring soul? And what is the body but a heavy weight of fetters binding it down ? How often does the weary soul pant to be free from the burdensome habits and modes of this present life, and to rise to liberty, and light, and everlasting life, and the full exercise of all its heavenborn powers ! Nothing but the ties of strong affection could make this world a home to the Christian; and nothing but a desire to do his Father's will, and serve Him for his appointed time, could make him feel that prolonged life is indeed a prolonged blessing.

Life was given us as the time in which to prepare for eternity; a greater boon, therefore, God could not give. Let us then so use it. Let us not eat and drink, and sleep, and buy and sell and get gain, as if for these things the Almighty had formed us, and for no higher purpose Christ had redeemed us.

“use this world as not abusing it, knowing that the fashion of it passeth away;" and let us so enjoy all the many blessings and comforts which are our portion in this life, and so keep our eye fixed on “the things which are not seen, and are eternal,” that we may be delivered from “ the fear of death,” and be no longer " subject to bondage."

Let us

DEATH THE MINISTER OF LIFE.

“He turneth the shadow of death into the morning."- Amos v. 8.

The fact of the Resurrection of our Lord has revolutionized the whole aspect under which we regard the life and destinies of man. It is a common remark that it is a peculiarity of the Christian religion that it not merely alters and corrects human judgments, but that in very great measure it reverses the aspect under which the natural disposition of man regards the accidents and events of human life. And this it does, not by contradicting or disparaging our human reason or our human intellect, but by introducing new facts to our knowledge and observation that is, in other words, by giving the human intellect additional materials to work upon. It is important to observe this when we speak of the changed view of life which Christianity introduces, since even our Lord could appeal to his opponents with such phrases as, “Yea, and why even of yourselves judge (i. e., discern) ye not what is right ?” and St. Paul admitted the case of those who, without the law, did by nature the things contained in the law.

With thus much, then, of caution and of reservation, we may accept the above cited customary statement. The chief of these “ new facts” is the return of our Lord from the grave : the changed aspect we speak of dates from the resurrection of Christ: the first Easterday is as the dividing line between contrasted prospects. It is not too much to say that since the first Easter-day the whole circuit of our associations with the words “ life” and “death,” have been altered, nay even in some measure reversed, at least within the limits of the Christian Church. A new fact has done all this. Not that in this brief paper we can enter into higher spiritual meanings which in its onward gaze Christianity has for ever attached to these two words: the death beyond “death” which looms upon us far down the dread perspectives of the Apocalypse ; the transfiguration of the word "life" which pervades the writings of St. Paul and of St. John. We must content ourselves with the simpler teachings which lie around the returning path of Him on whom the gates of death had closed, but who carried with Him the keys of those gates, and who, opening them for Himself

, opened them also for us.

In the first place, then, the Christian receives an altogether altered conception of “ life,” and of its relation to, and connection with, its great opposite “ death.” “Death,” the death of the body, is, in short,

, no longer the opposite of life. Before the return of our Lord from the grave the cloud which rested upon its further shore might have admitted, here and there, the penetrating glance of seer or of philosopher, but the parting mists soon closed again: no means vouchsafed to scan the

DEATH THE MINISTER OF LIFE.

447

distant prospect, no certainty that there was aught but cloudland to be scanned. Nay, even to the Psalmist life must have seemed but as a strain of music which found not only a pause, but an end, in deatha stream plunging into an abyss hiding it for ever from the light of day. “The dead cannot praise Thee, O God, neither all they that go down into silence.” St. Paul, on the contrary, finds in “ death” the means of a nearer access to the source of “life ”-“having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better.” Thus in the very outset we see that “life” and “death,” taken in their every-day meanings, are no longer the antitheses of each other. A pause, an occasion during which a change in our manner of existing is to take place, such as we see while the creeping worm is changed into the airy butterfly, such as we see while the tiny seed is developed after its kind into the herb or tree, an opportunity for the development of the latent

power of our mysterious life; such is the altered relation under which death stands to life, as we see them both in the light which rose upon us with the dawn of the Easter morning.

But is this all ? Did Christ die and rise again, did He unlock the barrier by which death vainly sought to hold Him, only to connect our philosophical conceptions of the relation between life and death? Was His “descent into hell,” His resurrection from the dead, only the calm progress of a monarch through a portion of his dominions in order that his subjects might learn that a right of way lay through it, and have clearer views of its geography ? Not so indeed. Our notions of life and death, taken merely as facts in the natural history of the race, have been altered, but there has been far more also. The things have been altered too. Their moral significance has been fully displayed. They have not merely been the scene of a royal progress made by Him who is the Lord of the one, and who bears the keys of the other; they have been the battle-ground of a conflict.

Let us try to indicate a few points in the history of this conflict, such as bear upon our special subject.

There lay the world—the world moral and material—the creation of the Lord of life, intended to be a region of life and goodness, now alas! a lost province of his kingdom; Satan exercising over it the savage rights of a conqueror ; Satan the enemy of life, and by death carrying away his captive, as the Oriental empires carried away conquered nations, to replenish their own dominions. The conquest appeared complete. The enemy appeared utterly triumphant. There was no exception to the law. Life was gone. Man was a conquered

Satan had a lien upon all. Death, his dread headsman, could execute his warrant universally. Thus, then, death was originally the exact opposite of life. It was the very symbol of subjugation; the mark whereby the alien domination was rendered patent to the universe; the livery which set forth that man had passed into the service of sin. So man shrank from death, for man was not created for death, but for its opposite. So God eschewed death, for it was the seal of the power of the enemy at once of heaven and of earth. And therefore the work of man’s redemption took also the form of a contest between the Captain of our salvation on the one part, and sin and death upon the other.

race.

We cannot enter into all the mysteries of the inner struggles of that contest, but we may clearly see that in the incarnation of our Lord, He was taking up the cause of the subjugated race of man. Wo can see that, in accepting the position of “a man,” He was entering upon a life which was already, before He took it, forfeited to death. We can see that in that position, and upon that level, He became the Champion of the life into which He had entered, and the Victor over the death by which it had been enslaved. Henceforward, not only is the power of death shattered and broken, but death itself becomes subordinate to life, the means and opportunity of the full development of our higher existence: it becomes the minister and slave of the life which it formerly oppressed. There is an exquisite beauty in the words of our Lord in which He speaks of His own great work, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly." Christ did not merely repeal the law which had made material death the common lot of men. He did more.

He reversed it, and made death life's minister and slave. He converted death into the oppor. tunity and the occasion whereby man could return into a far more abundant fulness of life, wherein death should have no plea for interference. Christ passing through our life did not merely restore it as it was before death invalidated it; He made it capable of a higher and a nobler existence, to which death, as an unwilling slave, must henceforward hold open gates and offer easy passage to all who demand “to be with Christ,” and whose life has been a warfare against him who had the power of death. The gates of death stand ever open—they are portals through which the soldiers of the Cross march triumphant in long procession, following their triumphant Lord; and Death, no longer the king of terrors but the minister of life, must hold those gates open, ever, until the last member of the Church Triumphant has entered into life, and then Death also will have accomplished the doom of his defeat, and shall be blotted out of the universe of God.

So “ He turneth the shadow of death into the morning," and " The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.”

THE

CHURCHMAN'S FAMILY MAGAZINE,

MAY, 1863.

THE CONDUCT OF THE “TIMES" NEWSPAPER IN

RELATION TO THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND.

It is the boast of the “ Times” newspaper to be at once both the creature and the creator of public opinion in this country. It prides itself on discerning from afar the first faint indications of change in the sentiments of the people, and of then instantaneously adopting, condensing, and accommodating to existing circumstances what it believes to be the creed of the future. As we make no doubt that this boast is to a great extent justifiable, anything which seems to be an exception to the rule implied, becomes peculiarly interesting and important. It has its own general and, as it were, literary interest as a feature in the history of journalism; and it has its special and political interest arising from the subject matter with which the exception is connected. Such an exception we think is to be found in the treatment of ecclesiastical questions by the “Times” during the last five or six years. The remarkable forecast usually displayed by the management of this journal has in this case, as we venture to believe, been at fault; and has, while detecting at an early period the change which was coming over the public mind with regard to civil politics, overlooked the corresponding change which was beginning to affect ecclesiastical affairs.

It was, therefore, in no spirit of acrimony or censure that we proposed to give our readers a brief sketch of the attitude from time to time adopted by this newspaper towards the Church of England. Such a review must necessarily lead us through a good deal of interesting matter independently of the particular object with which it is undertaken ; and that object is simply to qualify ourselves for judging how far the tone of the “Times" upon questions of this nature at the present day is to be accepted as a faithful reflex of popular opinion. To appreciate fairly either the course pursued by the “Times,"

VOL. 1.—NO. V.

GO

« ZurückWeiter »