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The Crown of Thorns

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blessedness of the Christian religion that it enables man
when in solitude to have communion, consolation, and
guidance. In fact, it makes him, when alone, to be not
alone,--to say, with glad consciousness, "I am not alone,
because the Father is with me."

To illustrate this truth, then, I say, that so far as the
communion and help of this outward world and of human society
are concerned, there are many and important seasons when man
must be alone. In the first place, in his most interior and
essential nature, man is a solitary being. He is an
individual, a unit, amid all the souls around him, and all
other things,--a being distinct and peculiar as a star. God,
in all the variety of his works, has made no man exactly like
another. There is an individual isolation, a conscious
personality, which he can share with no other; which resists
the idea of absorption; which claims its own distinct
immortality; which has its own wants and woes, its own sense
of duty, its own spiritual experiences. Christianity insists
upon nothing more strongly than this. Piercing below all
conventionalisms, it recognizes man as an individual soul,
and, as such, addresses him with its truths and its
sanctions. Indeed, it bases its grand doctrine of human
brotherhood and equality upon the essential individuality of
each man, because each represents all,--each has in himself
the nature of every other. It demands individual repentance,
individual holiness, individual faith. One cannot believe
for another. One cannot decide questions of conscience for
another. One cannot bear the sins or appropriate the virtues
of another. It is true, we have relations to the great
whole, to the world of mankind, and to the material universe.
We are linked to these by subtle affinities. We are
interwoven with them all,--bound up with them in arterial
unity and life. They have all poured their results into our
souls, and helped to form us, and do now support us; and we,
in like manner, react upon them, and upon others. This truth
is a vital one, not to be neglected. But a deeper truth than
this and one upon which this depends, is the individual
peculiarity of each,--his integral distinctiveness, without
which there would be no such thing as union, or relationship;
nothing but monotony and inertia.

The great fact, then, which I would impress upon you is,
that, essentially as spiritual beings, we are alone. And I
remark that there are experiences in life when we are made to
feel this deep fact; when each must deal with his reason, his
heart, his conscience, for himself; when each is to act as if
the sole-existent in the universe, realizing that he is a
spirit breathed from God, complete in himself, subject to all
spiritual laws, interested in all spiritual welfare; when no
stranger soul, though it be that of his dearest friend, can
intermeddle with all that occupies him, or share it.

Such experiences we have when reflection binds us to the
past. Memory then opens for us a volume that no eye but
God's and ours can read;--memories of neglect, of sin, of
deep secrets that our hearts have hidden in their innermost
folds. Such experiences sometimes there are when we muse
upon the external universe; when we reflect upon the vastness
of creation, the littleness of human effort, the transciency
of human relations; when our souls are drawn away from all
ordinary communions, and we feel that we are drifting before
an almighty will, bound to an inevitable destiny, hemmed in
by irresistible forces. Then, with every tie of association
shrinking from us; then, keeping the solitary vigil; then
with cold, vast nature all around us, we are alone. Or,
there is a solitude which oppresses us even in the heart of
the great city;--a solitude more intense even than that of
naked nature; when all faces are strange to us; when no pulse
of sympathy throbs from our heart to the hearts of others
when each passes us by, engaged with his own destiny, and
leaving us to fulfil ours. In this tantalizing solitude of
the crowd, in this sense of isolation from our fellows, if
never before, do we feel, with sickness of heart, that we are
alone. There is a solitude of sickness,--the solitude of the
watcher or of the patient,--a solitude to which, at times,
duty and Providence call us all. There are, in brief,
countless circumstances of life when we shall realize that we
are indeed alone, and sad enough will be that solitude if we
have no inner resource,--no Celestial companionship;--if we
cannot say and feel as we say it, that we are not alone, for
the Father is with us.

But, while I cannot specify all these forms of solitude, let
me dwell upon two or three of the experiences of life in
which we are peculiarly alone.

First, then, I would say, that we must be alone in the
pursuit of Truth and the work of Duty. Others may aid me in
these, but I must decide and act for myself. I must believe
for myself. I must do right for myself; or if I do wrong, it
is also for myself, and in myself I realize the retribution.
By my own sense of right and wrong-by my own standard of
truth and falsehood-I must stand or fall. There is in this
world nothing so great and solemn as the struggles of the
solitary soul in its researches after the truth,--in its
endeavors to obey the right. We may be indifferent to these
vital questions,--it is to be feared that many are; we may
glide along in the suppleness of habit, and the ease of
conventionalism; we may never trouble ourselves with any
pungent scruples; we may never pursue the task of
introspection, or bring to bear upon the fibres of motive and
desire within us the intense focus of God's moral law; we may
never vex our souls with tests of faith, but rest contented
with the common or hereditary standard;--but he who will be
serious in the work of spiritual discipline, who will act
from a vital law of duty, must endure struggles and conflicts
than which, I repeat, there is nothing more solemn under the
sun. He will often find himself opposed to the general
current of human faith and action. His position will be
singular. His principle will be tried. Interest will direct
him another way; his strictness will be ridiculed, his
motives questioned, his sincerity misunderstood and aspersed.
Alone must he endure all this,--along cling to the majestic
ideal of right as it rises to his own soul. And thus he must
wage a bitter conflict with fear and with seduction,--with
sophistries of the heart, and reluctance of the will.

Often, too, must he question his own motives with a severer
judgment than that of the world, as his scrutiny is more
close, and his self-knowledge more minute. He knows the
secret sin, the mental act, the spiritual aberration. He
knows the distance between his highest effort and that lofty
standard of perfection to which he has pledged his purposes.
Alone, alone does the great conflict go on within him. The
struggle, the self-denial, the pain, and the victory, are of
the very essence of martyrdom,--are the chief peculiarities
in the martyr's lot. His, too, must be the solitude of
prayer, when, by throwing by all entanglements,--in his naked
individuality,--he wrestles at the Mercy Seat, or soars to the
bliss of Divine communion. In such hours,--in every hour of
self-communion,--when we ask ourselves the highest questions
respecting faith and duty, it is the deepest comfort to the
religious soul to feel and to say, "I am not alone, for the
Father is with me."

Again; there are experiences of Sorrow in which we are
peculiarly alone. How often does the soul feel this when it
is suffering from the loss of friends! Then we find no
comfort in external things. Pleasure charms not; business
cannot cheat us of our grief; wealth supplies not the void;
and though the voice of friendship falls in consolation upon
the ear, yet with all these, we are alone,--alone! No other
spirit can fully comprehend our woe, or enter into our
desolation. No human eye can pierce to our sorrows; no
sympathy can share them. Alone we must realize their sharp
suggestions, their painful memories, their brood of sad and
solemn thoughts. The mother bending over her dead child;--O!
what solitude is like that?--where such absolute loneliness
as that which possesses her soul, when she takes the final
look of that little pale face crowned with flowers and
sleeping in its last chamber, with the silent voice of the
dead uttering its last good night? What more solitary than
the spirit of one who, like the widow of Nain, follows to the
grave her only son?--of one from whom the wife, the mother,
has been taken? The mourner is in solitude,--alone, in this
peopled world;--O, how utterly alone! Through the silent
valley of tears wanders that stricken spirit, seeing only
memorials of that loss.

Indeed, sorrow of any kind is solitary. Its deepest pangs,
its most solemn visitations, are in the secrecy of the
individual soul. We labor to conceal it from others. We
wear a face of unconcern or gayety amid the multitude.
Society is thronged with masked faces. Unseen burdens of woe
are carried about in its busy haunts. The man of firm step
in the mart, and of vigorous arm in the workshop, has
communions in his chamber that make him weak as a child.
Nothing is more deceitful than a happy countenance. Haggard
spirits laugh over the wine-cup, and the blooming garland of
pleasure crowns an aching head. For sorrow is secret and
solitary. Each "heart knoweth its own bitterness."

How precious, then, in the loneliness of sorrow, is that
faith which bids us look up and see how near is God, and feel
what divine companionship is ours, and know what infinite
sympathy engirds us,--what concern for our good is, even in
this darkness, shaping out blessings for us, and distilling
from this secret agony everlasting peace for the soul. How
precious that faith in the clear vision of which we can say,
"I am not alone, for the Father is with me."

Finally, we must experience Death alone. As I said in the
commencement, the best, the most pious soul, may naturally
shrink from this great event. We may learn to anticipate it
with resignation, to look upon it with trust; but
indifference respecting it is no proof of religion. It would
be, rather, a bad sign for one to approach it without
emotion; for however his faith may penetrate beyond, the
religious spirit will, with deep awe, lift that curtain of
mystery which hangs before the untried future. That is a
fact which we must encounter alone. Friends may gather
around us; their ministrations may aid, their consolations
soothe us. They may be with us to the very last; they may
cling to us as though they would pluck us back to the shores
of time; their voices may fall, the last of earthly sounds,
upon our ears; their kiss awaken the last throb of
consciousness; but they cannot go with us, they cannot die in
our stead; the last time must come,--they must loosen their
hold from us, and fade from our vision, and we become wrapt
in the solemn experience of death, alone! Alone must we
tread the dark valley,--alone embark for the unseen land.
No, Christian! not alone. To your soul, thus separated in
blank amazement from all familiar things, still is that
vision of faith granted that so often lighted your earthly
perplexities; to you is it given, in this most solitary hour,
to say, "I am not alone for the Father is with me!"

I repeat, then, in closing, that the test which proves the
excellence of the religion of Christ is the fact that it fits
us for those solemn hours of life when we must be alone.
Mere happiness we may derive from other sources; but this
consolation not all the world can give,--the world cannot
take it away.

Let us remember, then, that though we seldom look within-
though our affections may be absorbed in external things-
these solitary seasons will come. It behoves us, therefore,
as we value true peace of mind, genuine happiness, which
connects us to the throne of God with golden links of
prayer,--it behoves each to ask himself, "Dare I be alone?
Am I ready to be alone? And what report will my soul make in
that hour of solitude? If I do wrong, if I cleave to evil
rather than the good, what shall I do when I am alone, and
yet not alone, but with the Father? But if I do right, if I
trust in Him, and daily walk with Him, what crown of human
honor, what store of wealth, what residuum of earthly
pleasure, can compare with the glad consciousness that
wherever I rest or wander, in every season and circumstance,
in the solitary hours of life, and the loneliness of death,
God is verily with me?"

Surely no attainment is equal to that strength of Christ, by
which, when approaching the cross, he was able to say, "I am
not alone, for the Father is with me." By this strength, he
was able to do more than to say and feel thus. He was able
to strengthen others,--to exclaim, "Be of good cheer, I have
overcome the world." So we, by spiritual discipline, having
learned of Christ to be thus strong, not only possess a
spring of unfailing consolation for ourselves, but there
shall go out from us a benediction and a power that shall
gladden the weary and fortify the weak,--that shall fill the
solitude of many a lonely spirit with the consolations of the
Father's love, and the bliss of the Father's presence.


"The cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink
it?" John xvii.11.

The circumstances in which these words were uttered have,
doubtless, often arrested your attention,--have often been
delineated for you by others. Yet it is always profitable
for us to recur to them. They transpired immediately after
our Saviour's farewell with his disciples. The entire
transaction in that "upper room" had been hallowed and
softened by the fact of his coming death. He saw that fact
distinctly before him, and to his eye everything was
associated with it. As he took the bread and broke it, it
seemed to him an emblem of himself, pierced and dying; and
from the fulness of his spirit he spoke, "Take, eat, this is
my body, broken for you." As he took the cup and set it
before them, it reminded him of his blood, that must flow ere
his mission was fulfilled, and he could say, "It is
finished." And then, when the traitor rose from that table
to go out and consummate the very purpose that should lead to
that event, as one who had arrayed himself in robes of death,
and was about to declare his legacy, he broke forth in that
sublime strain commencing, "Now is the Son of man glorified,
and God is glorified in him;"-that strain of mingled precept,
and promise, and warning, and prayer, from which the weary
and the sick-hearted of all ages shall gather strength and
consolation, and which shall be read in dying chambers and
houses of mourning until death and sorrow shall reign no

Laden, then, with the thought of his death, he had gone with
his disciples into the garden of Gethsemane. There, in the
darkness and loneliness of night, the full anguish of his
situation rushed upon his spirit. He shrank from the rude
scenes that opened before him,--from the mocker's sneer and
the ruler's scourge; from the glare of impatient revenge, and
the weeping eyes of helpless friendship; from the insignia of
imposture and of shame; and from the protracted, thirsty,
torturing death. He shrank from these,--he shrank from the
rupture of tender ties,--he shrank from the parting with
deeply-loved friends,--his soul was overburdened, his spirit
was swollen to agony, and he rushed to his knees, and prayed,
"Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me." Yet
even then, in the intensity of his grief, the sentiment that
lay deep and serene below suggested the conditions, and he
added, "Nevertheless, not my will, but thine, be done." But
still the painful thought oppressed him, and, though more
subdued now, he knelt and prayed again, "O, my Father, if
this cup may not pass away from me except I drink it, thy
will be done." And once more, as he returned from his weary,
sleeping disciples, and found himself alone, the wish broke
forth-yet tempered by the same obedient compliance.

And here I pause to ask, if, in all that scene of agony,
anything is developed inconsistent with the character of
Christ? If we would have it otherwise? If these tears and
groans of anguish are tokens of a weakness that we would
conceal from our convictions,--that we would overlook, as
marring the dignity and the divinity of the Saviour? For
one, I would not have it otherwise. I would not have the
consoling strength, the sympathizing tenderness, the holy
victory that may be drawn from thence,--I would not have
these left out from the Life that was given us as a pattern.
Jesus, we are told, "was made perfect through suffering."
This struggle took place that victory might be won;--this
discipline of sorrow fell upon him that perfection and beauty
might be developed. By this we see that Christ's was a
spirit liable to trial,--impressible by suffering; and from
this fact does the victory appear greater and more real. In
this we see one striving with man's sorrow,--seeking, like
man, to be delivered from pain and grief, yet rising to a
calm obedience,--a lofty resignation. Had Jesus passed
through life always serene, always unshrinking, we should not
have seen a man, but something that man is not, something
that man cannot be in this world; and that calm question,
"The cup that my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?"
would lose its force and significance. Otherwise, why should
not Jesus be as resigned as before? He had betrayed no sense
of suffering, no impressibility by pain; why should he not be
willing, seeing he was always able to meet the end? But O!
when that deep, holy calmness has fallen upon a soul that has
been tossed by sorrow, and that has shrunk from death,--when
the brow has come up smooth and radiant from the shadow of
mourning,--when that soul is ready for the issue, not because
it has always felt around it the girdle of Omnipotence, but
because, through weakness and suffering, it has risen and
worked out an unfaltering trust, and taken hold of the hand
of God by the effort of faith,--then it is, I say, that
resignation if beautiful and holy,--then do we wonder and

So it was with Jesus. A little while ago we saw him bowed
with sorrow, his eyes lifted with tears to heaven. We saw
that he keenly felt the approaching pain, and shame, and
death. A little while ago, the still night air was laden
with his cry, "Father, if it be thy will, let this cup pass
from me." And now, as one who is strong and ready, he says
calmly to Peter, "The cup which my Father hath given me,
shall I not drink it?" Truly, a battle has been fought, and
a victory won, here; but we should not be the better for it,
were it not for that very process of suffering in which that
battle was waged, and from which that victory was wrung.
Now, when we sorrow, we know who also sorrowed; we remember
whose agony the still heavens looked upon with all their
starry eyes,--whose tears moistened the bosom of the bare
earth,--whose cry of anguish pierced the gloom of night.
Now, too, when we sorrow, we know where to find relief; we
learn the spirit of resignation, and under what conditions it
may be born. Thank God, then, for the lesson of the lonely
garden and the weeping Christ-we, too, may be "made perfect
through suffering."

Such, then, were the circumstances that illustrate the words
of the text. Scarcely had Jesus risen from his knees, and
wakened the drowsy disciples, when the light of lanterns
flashed upon him, and Judas came with a multitude to bear him
to that death from which, but now, he shrunk with agony. But
he shrank no more. The trial was over,--the darkness had
vanished,--an angel had strengthened him; and when the
impetuous Peter drew his sword and smote off the servant's
ear, his master turned to him, with the calm rebuke, "Put up
thy sword into his sheath; the cup which my Father hath given
me, shall I not drink it?" Yes, cold and bitter as that cup
was, pressed next to his very lips, he had learned to drink
it. God had given him strength, and no more did he falter,
no more did he groan-save once, for a moment, when, upon the
cross, drooping, and racked with intense pain, he cried out,
"My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" But that passed
away in the triumphant ejaculation, "It is finished!"

Such was the resignation of Jesus; a trait in his character
which, like all the rest, is not only to be admired, but
imitated;--not an abstract virtue, manifested by a being so
perfect and so enshrined in the sanctity of a divine nature
that we cannot approach it, and in our mortal, work-day
trials can never feel it; but a virtue which should be
throned in every heart, the strength and consolation of which
every suffering soul may experience. Nay, if there is one
virtue which is more often needed than any other, which lies
at the base of true happiness, and than which there is no
surer seal of piety, it is this virtue of resignation. And
let me proceed to say, that by resignation I mean not cold
and sullen apathy, or reckless hardihood, but a sweet trust
and humble acquiescence, which show that the soul has
submitted itself to the Father who knows and does best, and
that it meets his dispensations with obedience and his
mysteries with faith. The apathy and hardihood to which I
have alluded are very far from the trust and piety of a
religious spirit. The fatalist acquiesces in the course of
things because he cannot help it. He has reasoned to the
conclusion that his murmuring and weeping will not alter
matters and he has resolved to take things as they come. But
here is no resignation to the will of God, but to the
necessity of things. Here is no faith that all things are
wisely ordered, and that sorrow is but the shadow of the
Father's hand. No; here is the simple belief that things are
as they are, and cannot be altered,-that an arbitrary law is
the eternal rule, not a benevolent and holy purpose; and the
philosopher would be just as resigned if he believed all
things to be under the guidance of a blind fate, whose iron
machinery drives on to level or exalt, unintelligent and
remorseless, whether in its course it brings about good or
evil,-whether it gladdens human hearts or crushes them. Such
resignation as this may be quite common in the world,
manifested in various phases, and by men of different
religious opinions. Do we not often hear the expression,
"Well, things are as they are,-we do best to take them as
they come;" and here the matter ends? No higher reference is
made. The things alluded to may issue from the bosom of
material nature, may be sent into the world by chance, or may
come from the good Father of all; but the minds of these
reasoners reach not so far. Now I repeat, there is no
religion and no true philosophy in this method; certainly it
is not such resignation as Jesus manifested. In fact, it
indicates total carelessness as to the discipline of life,
and will generally be found with men in whose thoughts God is
not, or to whose conceptions he is the distant, inactive
Deity, not the near and ever-working Controller. I cannot
admire the conduct of that man who when the bolt of sorrow
falls, receives it upon the armor of a rigid fatalism, who
wipes scarcely a tear from his hard, dry face, and says,
"Well, it cannot be helped; things are so ordered." Below
all this there is often a sulky, half-angry sentiment, as
though the victim felt the blow, but was determined not to
wince,-as though there was an acknowledgment of weakness,
but also a display of pride,-a feeling that we cannot resist
sorrow, yet that sorrow has no business to come, and now that
it has come the sufferer will not yield to it. This,
evidently, is not resignation, religious resignation, but
only sullen acquiescence, or reckless hardihood.

In a certain sense it is true that we do well to take things
as they come,-that we cannot help the eternal laws that
control events. But we must go behind this truth. Whence do
events come, and for what purpose do they come? What is
life, and for what end are all its varied dispensations?
Religion points us up beyond the cloud of materialism, and
behind the mechanism of nature, to an Infinite Spirit, to a
God, to a Father. All things are moved by infinite Love.
Life is not merely a phenomenon, it is a Lesson. Its events
do not come and go, in a causeless, arbitrary manner; they
are meant for our discipline and our good. In whatever
aspect they come, then, let their appropriate lesson be
heeded. This is the religious view of life, and is wide
apart from the philosophy that lets events happen as they
will, as though we were in the setting of a heady current,
and were borne along among other matters that now help us,
now jar and wound us,-that happen without order and without
object; all, like ourselves, driven along and taking things
as they come. In the religious view, all things stream from
God's throne, and whatever sky hangs over them, the infinite
One is present; prosperity is the sunshine that he has sent,
and Faith, as she weeps, beholds a bow in the clouds.

The religious man takes things as they come, but how? In a
reverent and filial spirit, a spirit that obeys and trusts
because God has ordained. He refers, behind the event, to
the will that declares it. And yet, this will be no formal
lifeless resignation. He will not be stripped of his
manhood, or become unnatural in his religion. His
resignation will not be the cold assent of reason, or the
mere rote and repetition of the lips. No, it will be born in
struggling and in sorrow. Religion is not a process that
makes our nature callous to all fierce heats or drenching
storms. Neither is he the most religious man who is calmest
in the keen crisis of trouble. I say in the crisis of
trouble-for to human vision there always is a crisis. We
cannot penetrate to the secret determinations of God, and in
the season of care and affliction there is a time when the
issue is uncertain,-when we cannot say it is sealed. What
shall we do then? Is human agency nothing? Grant that we
are driving down a stream,-can we use no effort? Is there
not a time when deeds, struggles, prayers, are of some
avail?-when the spirit, in its intense agony, with swollen
strength and surging tears, heaves against the catastrophe,
if yet, perchance, it may ward it off? Truly, there is such
a time, and the humblest disciple of Christ may weep as he
also wept. But let him also strive as Christ strove. Let
him not dash his grief in rebellious billows to the throne;
let not his groans arise in resentful murmurs; let the
remembrance of what God is and why he does, be with him, and
let the filial, reverent trust steal in,-"Not my will, but
thine be done." That reference to God, that obedience to
him, rising from the very depths of sorrow, and clung to
without faltering, is RESIGNATION. It shall bestow peace and
victory in the end. O! how different from that sullen
fatalism that lets things come as they will. To such a soul
things do come as they will, and it hardens under them,-they
do come as they will, but it sees not, cares not, why they
come. No thought goes up beyond the cloud to God,-no
strength is born that shall make life's trials lighter,-no
love and faith that will seek the Father's hand in the
darkest hour, and shed an enduring light over the thorny path
of affliction, and upon the bosom of the grave. Look at
these two. Outwardly, their calmness may be the same. Nay,
the one may evince emotion and tears, while the other shall
stand rigid in the hour of calamity, with a bitter smile, or
a frown of endurance. But in the one is strength, in the
other rigidity; in the one is power to triumph over sorrow,
in the other only nervous capacity to resist it. The one is
man hardened to indifference, sullen because of irreligion,
upon whom some sorrow will one day fall that will peel him to
the quick, and he will not know where to flee for healing.
The other is man contending against evil, yet not against
God,-man with all the tenderness and strength of his nature,
impressible yet unconquerable, walking with feet that bleed
among the wounding thorns, and a heart that shrinks from the
heavy woe, yet, all lacerated as he is, able to walk through,
because he holds by the hand of Omnipotence. The one is the
unbending tree, peeled by the lightning and stripped by the
North wind, lifting its gnarled head in sullen defiance to
the storm, which, when the storm does overcome it, shall be
broken. The other also is rooted in strength, and meets the
rushing blast with a lofty front. But as "it smiles in
sunshine, so it bends in storm," trustful and obedient, yet
firm and brave, and nothing shall overwhelm it.

I trust I have succeeded in impressing upon you the
difference between Christian resignation and mere hardihood,
or indifference. Resignation is born of discipline, and
lives only in a truly religious soul. We have seen that it
is not incompatible with tenderness; nay, it is more
valuable, because it springs up in natures that have thus
suffered and wept. To see them become calm and pass with
unfaltering step through the valley of affliction, when, but
now, they shrunk from it, is a proof that God indeed has
strengthened them, and that they have had communion with him.
The unbeliever's stubbornness may endure to the end, but no
human power could inspire this sudden and triumphant

And even when the crisis is past, when the sorrow is sealed,
it is not rebellion to sigh and weep. Our Father has made us
so. He has opened the springs of love that well up within
us, and can we help mourning when they turn to tears and
blood? He has made very tender the ties that bind us to
happiness, and can we fail to shrink and suffer when they are
cut asunder? When we have labored long in the light of hope,
and lo! It goes out in darkness, and the blast of
disappointment rushes upon us, can we help being sad? Can
the mother prevent weeping when she kisses the lips of her
infant that shall prattle to her no more; when she presses
its tiny hand, so cold and still,-the little hand that has
rested upon her bosom and twined in her hair; and even when
it is so sweet and beautiful that she could strain it to her
heart forever, it is laid away in the envious concealment of
the grave? Can the wife, or the husband, help mourning, when
the partner and counsellor is gone,-when home is made very
desolate because the familiar voice sounds not there, and the
cast-off garment of the departed is strangely vacant, and the
familiar face has vanished, never more to return? Can the
child fail to lament, when the father, the mother,-the being
who nurtured him in infancy, who pillowed his head in
sickness, who prayed for him with tears on his sinful
wandering, who ever rejoiced in his joy and wept in his
sorrows,-can he fail to weep when that venerable form lies
all enshrouded, and the door closes upon it, and the
homestead is vacant, and the link that bound him to childhood
is in the grave? Say, can we check the gush of sorrow at any
of life's sharp trials and losses? No; nor are we forbidden
to weep, nor would we be human if we did not weep,-if, at
least, the spirit did not quiver when the keen scathing goes
over it. But how shall we weep? O! Thou, who didst suffer
in Gethsemane, thou hast taught us how. By thy sacred sorrow
and thy pious obedience thou has taught us; by thy great
agony and thy sublime victory thou has taught us. We must
refer all to God. We must earnestly, sincerely say, "Thy
will be done." Then our prayers will be the source of our
strength. Then our sorrowing will bring us comfort. "They
will be done;" repeat this, feel this, realize its meaning
and its relations, and you shall be able to say, with a
rooted calmness, "The cup which my Father hath given me,
shall I not drink it?"

"The cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink
it?" Who shall be able to say this as Jesus said it? They
who struggle as he struggled,-who obey as he obeyed,-who
trust as he trusted. There are those upon earth who have
been able to say it. It has made them stronger and happier.
There are those in heaven who have been able to say it. They
have gone up from earthly communions to the communion on
high. Do you not see them there, walking so serenely by the
still waters, with palms about their brows? Serenely-for in
their faces nothing is left of their conflict but its
triumph; nothing of their swollen agony but the massy
enduring strength it has imparted. They have ceased from
their trials, but first they learned how to endure them.
They submitted, but they were not overwhelmed. When sorrow
came, each pious soul struggled, but trusted; and so was able
to meet the last struggle,-was able to say as the shadow of
death fell upon it, "The cup which my Father hath given me,
shall I not drink it?" They were resigned. Behold-theirs is
the victory!

The Mission of Little Children

"And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the
midst of them." Matthew xviii.2.

Everything has its mission. I speak not now of the office
which each part of the great universe discharges. I speak
not of the relation between these parts,--that beautiful
ordinance by which the whole is linked together in one common
life, by which the greatest is dependent upon the least, and
the least shares in the benefactions of the greatest. In
this sense, everything has, strictly, its mission. But I
speak of the influence, the instruction, which everything
has, or may have, for the soul of man. The flower, and the
star, the grass of the field, the outspread ocean, are full
of lessons; they perform a mission to our spiritual nature,
if we will receive it. We may pass them by as simply
material forms, the decorations or conveniencies(sic) of this
our natural life. But if we will come to them in a religious
spirit, and study all their meaning, they will be to us
ministers of God, impressive and eloquent as human lips, and
filled with truths instructive as any that man can utter.

Jesus illustrated his teachings by these objects. He made
everything that was at hand perform a mission for the human
soul. The lilies of the field were clothed with spiritual
suggestion, and the fowls of the air, as they flew through
the trackless firmament, bore a lesson of truth and
consolation. As if to show that there is nothing, however
small, that is insignificant, and that has not its mission,
he selected the falling sparrow to be a minister of wisdom,
and dignified the wayside well as a clear and living oracle
of the divinest truth.

In the instance before us, the object selected was a little
child. In reply to the question, "Who is the greatest in the
kingdom of heaven?" Jesus set this little one in the midst of
his disciples and said, "Verily I say unto you, except ye be
converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter
into the kingdom of heaven." Thus did he rebuke their
sensuous ideas of greatness by a spiritual truth, and make a
little child the teacher of profound and beautiful wisdom. I
do not propose, however, at this time, to dwell upon the
precise doctrines which Christ taught in the instance, but
having, as it were, the little child set in our midst, to
draw from it further lessons that may do us good. In one
word, I propose to speak of the mission of little children.

In using this term "mission," I wish to have no obscurity
about my meaning. I refer, by it, to the influence which
little children may exert upon us,--to the effects which they
may produce,--rather than to any direct object which they can
have in view, or for which they set themselves to work. They
may be unconscious missionaries; indeed, to a great extent,
they are so. But so are the lilies of the field and the
birds of the air. Yet if we believe that God is the ordainer
of all wisdom and of all good, that he uses an object or
event in numberless ways, and makes it the unconscious
instrument of many of his plans, then we may say that
children are sent by him for the express purpose of producing
these effects, and in that sense have a mission.

I pass to consider some of the modes in which that mission is

I. Little children give us a sincere and affectionate
manifestation of human nature. I know that even a child will
soon become artful, and imbibe the spirit of dealing and of
policy. But in a strongly comparative sense, the child is
artless. The thoughts of the heart leap spontaneously from
the lips. The bubbling impulse is closely followed by the
action. Its desire, its aversion, its love, its curiosity,
are expressed without modification. The broken prattle,
those half-pronounced words, are uttered with clear, ringing
tones of sincerity. There is no coil of deceit about the
heart. There are no secrets chambered in the brain. The
countenance has put on no disguise. There is no manoeuvring
with lips or actions, no suspicion or plotting in the eyes.
It is simple human nature fresh from the hands of God, with
all its young springs in motion, trying themselves in their
simplicity and their newness. The eyes open upon the world,
not with speculation, but with wonder. To them, the ancient
hills and the morning stars are just created, new phenomena
burst upon them every moment, and nature in a thousand
channels pours itself into the young soul. And how soon it
learns the meaning of a mother's smile, and the protection of
a father's hand! How soon the fountains of affection are
unsealed and the mystery of human love takes possession of
the hear! But the tides of that love are controlled by no
calculation, are fettered by no proprieties, but flow
artlessly and freely.

Humanity soon runs into deceit, and the sincerest man wears a
mask. We cannot trust our most familiar friends, to the
whole extent. We all retain something in our inmost hearts
that nobody knows but we and God. The world bids us be
shrewd and politic. We walk in a mart of selfishness. Eyes
stare upon us, and we are afraid of them. We meet as
traders, as partisans, as citizens, as worshippers, as
friends-brothers, if you will-but we must not express all we
think, we must school ourselves in some respects,--must adopt
some conventionalities. There is some degree of isolation
between ourselves and every other one. But from the world's
strife and sordidness, its wearisome forms and cold
suspicions, we may turn to the sanctity of home, and if we
have a child there, we shall find affection without alloy, a
welcome that leaps from the heart in sunshine to the face,
and speaks right from the soul;--a companion who is not
afraid or ashamed of us, who makes no calculation about our
friendship, who has faith in it, and requires of us perfect
faith in return, and whose sincerity rebukes our worldliness,
and makes us wonder at the world. And if all this makes us
better and happier, if it keeps our hearts from hardness and
attrition, if it begets in us something of the same
sincerity, and hallows us with something of the same
affection, if it softens and purifies us at all, then do not
children, in this respect perform a mission for us?

And shall we not learn from them more confidence in human
nature, seeing that "the child is father to the man," and
that much that seems cold and hard in men may conceal the
remains of childhood's better feeling? And, also, shall it
not make us deplore and guard against those influences which
can change the sincere and loving child into the deceitful
and selfish man-that cover the spring of genuine feeling with
the thick rime of worldliness, and petrify the tender chords
of the heart into rough, unfeeling sinews? The man should
not be, in all respects, as the child. The child cannot have
the glory of the man. If it is not polluted by his vices, it
is not ennobled by his virtues. But in so much as the child
awakens in us tenderness, and teaches us sincerity, and
counteracts our coarser and harder tendencies, and cheers us
in our isolation from human hearts, by binding us close with
a warm affection, and sheds ever around our path the mirrored
sunshine of our youth and our simplicity, in so much the
child accomplishes for us a blessed mission.

II. Children teach us faith and confidence. Man soon
becomes proud with reason, and impatient of restraint.
He thinks he knows, or ought to know, the whole mystery
of the universe. It is not easy for him to take
anything upon trust, or to lie low in the hand of God.
But the child is full of faith. He is not old enough to
speculate, and the things he sees are to him so strange
and wonderful that he can easily believe in "the things
that are unseen." He propounds many questions, but
entertains no doubts as to God and heaven. And what
confidence has he in his father's government and his
mother's providence!

I do not say, here, that a man's faith should be as a child's
faith. Man must examine and reason, contend with doubt, and
wander through mystery. But I would have him cherish the
feeling that he too is a child, the denizen of a Father's
house, and have sufficient confidence in that Father to trust
his goodness; and to remember, if things look perplexed and
discordant to him, that his vision is but a child's vision-he
cannot see all. Indeed, there is a beautiful analogy between
a child in its father's house and man in the universe, and
much there is in the filial sentiment that belongs to both
conditions. Beautifully has it been shown by a recent writer
how the natural operation of this sentiment in the child's
heart, and in the sphere of home, stands somewhat in the
place of that religion which man needs in his maturer
conditions. "God has given it, in its very lot," says he, "a
religion of its own, the sufficiency of which it were impiety
to doubt. The child's veneration can scarcely climb to any
loftier height than the soul of a wise and good parent...How
can there be for him diviner truth than his father's
knowledge, a more wonderous world than his father's
experience, a better providence than his mother's vigilance,
a securer fidelity than in their united promise? Encompassed
round by these, he rests as in the embrace of the only
omniscience he can comprehend." (Martineau)

But O! my friends, when our childhood has passed by, and we
go out to drink the mingled cup of life, and cares come
crowding upon us, and hopes are crushed, and doubts wrestle
with us, and sorrow burdens our spirits, then we need a
deeper faith, and look up for a stronger Father. A kind word
will not stifle our grief then. We cannot go to sleep upon
our mother's arms, and forget it all. There is no charm to
hold our spirits within the walls of this home, the earth.
Our thoughts crave more than this. Our souls reach out over
the grave, and cry for something after! No bauble will
assuage this bitterness. It is spiritual and stern, and we
must have a word from heaven-a promise from one who is able
to fulfill. We look around us, and find that Father, and his
vary nature contains the promise that we need. And as the
child in his ignorance has faith, not because he can
demonstrate, but because it is his father, so let us, in our
ignorance, feel that in this great universe of many mansions,
of solemn mysteries, of homes beyond the earth, of
relationships that reach through eternity, of plans only a
portion of which is seen here; so let us look up as to a
Father's fare, take hold of his hand, go in and out and lie
down securely in his presence, and cherish faith. If
children only teach us to do this, how beautiful and how
great is their mission!

III. Children waken in us new and powerful affections.
Nobody but a parent can realize what these affections
are, can tell what a fountain of emotion the newborn
child unseals, what chords of strange love are drawn out
from the heart, that before lay there concealed. One
may have all powers of intellect, a refined moral
culture, a noble and wide-reaching philanthropy, and yet
a child born to him shall awaken within him a depth of
tenderness, a sentiment of love, a yearning affection,
that shall surprise him as to the capacity and the
mystery of his nature.

And the relation of a mother to her child; what other is like
it? Without it, how undeveloped is the great element of
affection, how small a horn of its orb is filled and lighted!
What was she until that new love woke up within her, and her
heart and soul thrilled with it, and first truly lived in it?
Of all the degrees of human love, how amply is this the
highest! In all the depths of human love, how surely is this
the nethermost! When illustrations fail us, how confidently
do we seize upon this! The mother nurturing her child in
tenderness, watching over it with untiring love! O! that is
affection stronger than any of this earth. It has a power, a
beauty, a holiness like no other sentiment. When that child
has grown to maturity, and has gone out from her in
profligacy and in scorn; when the world has denounced him,
and justice sets its price upon his head, and lovers and
companions fall off from him in utter loathing-we do not ask,
we know, there is one heart that cannot reject him. No sin
of his can paralyze the chord that vibrates there for him.
No alienation can cancel the affection that was born at his
birth, that pillowed him in his infancy, centred in him its
life, clasped him with its strength, and shed upon him its
blessings, its hopes, and its prayers.

And no one feels the death of a child as a mother feels it. Even
the father cannot realize it thus. There is a vacancy in his
home, and a heaviness in his heart. There is a chain of
association that at set times comes round with its broken link;
there are memories of endearment, a keen sense of loss, a weeping
over crushed hopes, and a pain of wounded affliction. But the
mother feels that one has been taken away who was still closer to
her heart. Hers has been the office of constant ministration.
Every gradation of feature has developed before her eyes. She
has detected every new gleam of intelligence. She heard the
first utterance of every new word. She has been the refuge of
his fears; the supply of his wants. And every task of affection
has woven a new link, and made dear to her its object. And when
he dies, a portion of her own life, as it were, dies. How can
she give him up, with all these memories, these associations?
The timid hands that have so often taken hers in trust and love,
how can she fold them on his breast, and surrender them to the
cold clasp of death? The feet whose wanderings she has watched
so narrowly, how can she see them straitened to go down into the
dark valley? The head that she has pressed to her lips and her
bosom, that she has watched in burning sickness and in peaceful
slumber, a hair of which she could not see harmed, O! how can she
consign it to the chamber of the grave? The form that not for
one night has been beyond her vision or her knowledge, how can
she put it away for the long night of the sepulchre, to see it no
more? Man has cares and toils that draw away his thoughts and
employ them; she sits in loneliness, and all these memories, all
these suggestions, crowd upon her. How can she bear all this?
She could not, were it not that her faith is as her affection;
and if the one is more deep and tender than in man, the other is
more simple and spontaneous, and takes confidently hold of the
hand of God.

Thus, then, do children awaken within us deep and mighty
affections; and is it not their mission to do so? Do we not see
many beautiful offices created and discharged by these
affections--tender and far-reaching relationships into which they
run? Do we not see how they win the heart from frivolity and
selfishness, and make it aware of duties, and quick with
sympathies? I shall not enter into detailed considerations of
the results of this affection thus awakened in us by children. A
little reflection will render them obvious to you. Let me simply
say, that in awakening these affections children discharge an
important and beautiful mission.

IV. I might speak of other offices discharged by little
children; of the influence upon us of their purity and their
innocence; their importance in the social state; of the benefits
conferred upon us by the very duties which we exercise toward
them. But merely suggesting these, I will speak at this time of
but one more mission which they perform for us. and this, my
friends, is performed through sadness and through tears. The
little child performs it by its death. It has been with us a
little while. We have enjoyed its bright and innocent
companionship by the dusty highway of life, in the midst of its
toils, its cares, and its sin. It has been a gleam of sunshine
and a voice of perpetual gladness in our homes. We have learned
from it blessed lessons of simplicity, sincerity, purity, faith.
It has unsealed within us this gushing, never-ebbing tide of
affection. Suddenly, it is taken away. We miss the gleam of
sunshine. We miss the voice of gladness. Our homes are dark and
silent. We ask, "Shall it not come again?" And the answer breaks
upon us through the cold gray silence, "Nevermore!" We say to
ourselves again and again, "Can it be possible?" "Do we not
dream?" "Will not that life and affection return to us?"
"Nevermore!" O! nevermore! The heart is like an empty mansion,
and that word goes echoing through its desolate chambers. We are
stricken and afflicted. But must this, should this, be always
and only so? Are we not looking merely at the earthly aspect of
the event? Has it not a spiritual phase for us? Nay, do we not
begin to consider how through our temporal affection an eternal
good is wrought out for us? Do we begin to realize that in our
souls we have derived profit from it already? Do we not begin to
learn that life is not a holiday or a workday only, but a
discipline,--that God conducts that discipline in infinite wisdom
and benevolence,--mingles the draught, and, when he sees fit,
infuses bitterness? Not that constant sweet would not please us
better, but that our discipline, which is of more importance than
our indulgence, will be more effectual thereby. This is often
talked about; I ask, do not we who are called upon to mourn the
loss of children realize it,--actually realize that that loss is
for our spiritual gain? If we do not, we are merely looking upon
the earthly phase of our loss. If we do not realize this
spiritual good, we may.

Yes, in death the little child has a mission for us. Through
that very departure he accomplishes for us, perhaps, what he
could not accomplish by his life. These affections which he has
awakened, we have considered how strong they are. They are
stronger, are they not, than any attachment to mere things of
this earth? But that child has gone from us,--gone into the
unseen, the spiritual world. What then? Do our affections sink
back into our hearts,--become absorbed and forgotten? O, no!
They reach out after that little one; they follow him into the
unseen and spiritual world,--thus is it made a great and vivid
reality to us,--perhaps for the first time. We have talked of
it, we have believed in it; but now that our dead have gone into
it, we have, as it were, entered it ourselves. Its atmosphere is
around us, chords of affection draw us toward it, the faces of
our departed ones look out from it--and it is a reality. And is
it not worth something to make it such a reality?

We are wedded to this world. It is beautiful, it is attractive,
it is real. Immortality is a pleasant thought. The spiritual
land is an object of faith. But the separation between this and
that is cold to think of, and hard to bear. It needs something
stronger than this earth to draw us toward that spiritual world;
to break some of the thousand tendrils that bind us here. My
friends, though many powerful appeals, many solid arguments,
cannot break our affections from this earth, the hand of a
departed child can do it. The voice that calls us to unseen
realities, that bids us prepare for the heavenly land, that says
from heights of spiritual bliss and purity, "Come up
hither;"--that voice that we loved so on earth, and gladly can we
rise and follow it.

Behold, then, what a little child can perform for us through its
death! It makes real and attractive to us that spiritual world
to which it has gone, and calls our affections from earth to that
true life which is the great end of our being, which is the
object of all our discipline, our mingled joy and suffering, here
upon this earth. That little child, gone from its sufferings of

"Gentle and undefiled, with blessings on its head,"--

has it indeed become a very angel of God for us, and is it
calling us to a more spiritual life, and does it win us to
heaven? Is its memory around us like a pure presence into which
no thought of sin can readily enter? Or is it with us, even yet,
a spiritual companion of our ways? From being the guarded and
the guided, has it risen in infant innocence, yet in the
knowledge and majesty of the immortal life, to be the guard and
the guide? Does it, indeed, make our hearts softer and purer,
and cause us to think more of duty, and live more holy, thus
clothing ourselves to go and dwell with it? Does it, by its
death, accomplish all this? O! most important, most glorious
mission of all, if we only heed it, if we only accept it. Then
shall we behold already the wisdom and benevolence of our Father
breaking through the cloud that overshadows us. Already shall we
see that the tie, which seemed to be dropped and broken, God has
taken up to draw us closer to himself, and that it is interwoven
with his all-gracious plan for our spiritual profit and
perfection. And we can anticipate how it will all be reconciled,
when his own hand shall wipe away our tears, and the bliss of
reunion shall extract the last drop of bitterness from "the cup
that our Father had given us."

Our Relations to the Departed

"She is not dead, but sleepeth." Luke viii.52

A Great peculiarity of the Christian religion is its transforming
or transmuting power. I speak not now of the regeneration which
accomplishes in the individual soul, but of the change it works
upon things without. It applies the touchstone to every fact of
existence, and exposes its real value. Looking through the lens
of spiritual observation, it throws the realities of life into a
reverse perspective from that which is seen by the sensual eye.
Objects which the world calls great it renders insignificant, and
makes near and prominent things which the frivolous put off.
Thus the Christian, among other men, often appears anomalous.
Often, amidst the congratulations of the world, he detects reason
for mourning, and is penetrated with sorrow. On the contrary,
where others shrink, he walks undaunted, and converts the scene
of dread and suffering into an ante-chamber of heaven. In this
light, the Apostle Paul speaks of himself and others, "As
sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich;
as having nothing, and yet possessing all things." Indeed, all
the beatitudes are based upon this peculiarity; for the true
blessing, the inward, everlasting riches, are for those who, in
the world's eye, are poor, and mourning, and persecuted. Jesus
himself weeps amid triumphant psalms and sounding hosannas, while
on the cross he utters the prayer of forgiveness, and the
ejaculation of peace.

No wonder, then, that the believer views the ghastliest fact of
all in a consoling and even a beautiful aspect; and death itself
becomes but sleep. Well was that trait of our religion which I
have now suggested illustrated at the bed-side of Jairus'
daughter. Well did that noisy, lamenting group represent the
worldly who read only the material fact, or that flippant
skepticism which laughs all supernatural truth to scorn. And
well did Jesus represent the spirit of his doctrine, and its
transforming power, when he exclaimed, "She is not dead, but

Yes! beautifully has Christianity transformed death. To the eye
of flesh it was the final direction of our fate,--the consummate
riddle in this mystery of being,--the wreck of all our hopes,--

"The simple senses crowned his head,
Omega! thou art Lord, they said;
We find no motion in the dead."

Ever, though with higher desires and better gleamings, the mind
has struggled and sunk before this fact of decay, and this awful
silence of nature; while in the waning light of the soul, and
among the ashes of the sepulchre, skepticism has built its dreary
negation. And though the mother could lay down her child without
taking hints which God gave her from every little flower that
sprung on that grassy bed,--though the unexhausted intellect has
reasoned that we ought to live again, and the affections, more
oracular, swelling with the nature of their great source, have
prophesied that we shall,--never, until the revelation of Christ
descended into our souls, and illuminated all our spiritual
vision, have we been able to say certainly of death, it is a
sleep. This has made its outward semblance not that of
cessation, but of progression--not an end, but a
change--converting its rocky couch to a birth-chamber,
over-casting its shadows with beams of eternal morning, while
behind its cold unconsciousness the unseen spirit broods into
higher life. "He fell asleep," says the sacred chronicler,
speaking of bloody Stephen. "Our friend Lazarus sleepeth," said
Christ to his disciples; and yet again, as here in the text, the
beautiful synonyme is repeated, "She is not dead, but sleepeth."

But I proceed to remark, if the Christian religion thus
transforms death, or, in other words, abolishes the idea of its
being annihilation, or an end, then it gives us a new view of our
relations to the departed. What are these relations? The
answers to this question will form the burden of the present

I. There is the relation of memory. It is true, we may argue
that this relation exists whether the Christian view of death be
correct or not;--so long have those who are now gone actually
lived with us,--so vivid are their images among the realities of
the soul,--though the grave should forever shut them from our
communion. But this relation of memory has peculiar propriety
and efficacy when associated with a Christian faith. If the dead
live no more, what would memory be to us but a spectre and a
sting? Should we not then seek to repress those tender
recollections,--to close our eyes to those pale, sad visions of
departed love? Should we not invoke the glare and tumult of the
world to distract or absorb our thoughts? Would we not say, "Let
it come, the pleasure, the occupation of the hour, that we may
think no more of the dead, plucked from us forever,--let us drive
thoughtlessly down this swift current of life, since thought only
harrows us,--let us drive thoughtlessly down, enjoying all we
can, until we too lie by the side of those departed ones, like
them to moulder in everlasting unconsciousness." I don not say
that this would always be the case without religious hope, but it
is a very natural condition of the feelings in such
circumstances,--it is the most humane alternative that would then
be left. At least, no one so well as the Christian can go into
the inner chambers of memory, feel the strength of its sad yet
blissful associations, and calmly invoke the communion of the

I speak not now of what occurs in those first bitter days of
grief, when the heart's wound bleeds afresh at every touch,--when
we are continually surprised by the bleak fact that the loved one
is actually dead. But I speak of those after seasons, those
Indian summers of the soul, in which all the present desolation
is blended with the bloom and enjoyment of the past. Then do we
find that the tie which binds us so tenderly to the departed is a
strong and fruitful one. We love, in those still retired
seasons, to call up the images of the dead, to let them hover
around us, as real, for the hour, as any living forms. We linger
in that communion, with a pleasing melancholy. We call up all
that was lovely in their character, all that was delightful in
their earthly intercourse. They live again for us, and we for

In this relation of memory, moreover, we realize the fact, that
while the departed were upon earth we enjoyed much with them.
This is a truth which in any estimate of our loss we should not
overlook. do we mourn that the dead have been taken from us so
soon? Are we not also thankful that they were ours so long? In
our grief over unfulfilled expectation, do we cherish no
gratitude for actual good? So much bliss has God mingled in our
cup of existence that the might have withheld. He lent it to us
thus far; why complain, rather, that he did not intrust us with
it longer? O! these fond recollections, this concentrated
happiness of past hours which we call up with tears, remind us
that so much good we have actually experienced.

In close connection with this thought is the fact, that, by some
delicate process of refinement, we remember of the dead only what
was good. In the relation of memory we see them in their best
manifestation, we live over the hours of our past intercourse.
Though in extraordinary instances it may be true that "the evil
which men do lives after them," yet even in regard to the
illustrious dead, their imperfections are overlooked, and more
justice is done to their virtues than in their own time. Much
more is this the case with those around whom our affections cling
more closely. The communion of memory, far more than that of
life, is unalloyed by sharp interruptions, or by any stain. That
communion now, though saddened, is tender, and without reproach.

And even if we remember that while they lived our relations with
them were all beautiful, shall we not believe that when they were
taken away their earthly mission for us was fulfilled? Was not
their departure as essential a work of the divine beneficence as
their bestowal? Who knows but if they had overstayed the
appointed hour, our relations with them might have changed?--some
new element of discontent and unhappiness been introduced, which
would have entirely altered the character of our recollections?
At least, to repeat what I have just suggested, what Christian
doubts that their taking away--this change from living communion
to the communion of memory--was for an end as wise and kind as
were all the love and intercourse so long vouchsafed to us?

Vital, the, for the Christian, is this relation which we have
with the dead by memory. We linger upon it, and find in it a
strange and sweet attraction. and is not much of this because,
though we may be unconscious of it, the current of faith
subtilely intermingles with our grief, and gives its tone to our
communion? We cannot consider the departed as lost to us
forever. The suggestion of rupture holds a latent suggestion of
reunion. The hues of memory are colored by the reflection of
hope. Religion transforms the condition of the departed for us,
and we consider them not as dead, but sleeping.

II. There is another relation which we have with the dead,--the
relation of spiritual existence. We live with them, not only by
communion with the past, by images of memory, but by that fine,
mysterious bond which links us to all souls, and in which we
live with them now and forever. The faith that has converted
death into a sleep has also transformed the whole idea of life.
If the one is but a halt in the eternal march,--a slumbrous rest
preceeding a new morning,--the other is but the flow of one
continuous stream, mated awhile with the flesh, but far more
intimately connected with all intelligences in the universe of
God. What are the conditions of our communion with the
living--those with whom we come in material contact? The eye,
the lip, the hand, are but symbols, interpretations;--behind
these it is only spirit that communes with spirit, even in the
market or the street. But not to enter into so subtle a
discussion, of what kind are some of the best communions which we
have on earth? We take up some wise and virtuous book, and enter
into the author's mind. Seas separate us from him,--he knows us
not; he never hears our names. But have we not a close relation
to him? Is there not a strong bond of spiritual communion
between us? Nay, may not the intercourse we thus have with him
be better and truer than any which we could have from actual
contact,--from local acquaintance? Then, some icy barrier of
etiquette might separate us,--some coldness of temperament upon
his part,--some spleen or disease; we might be shocked by some
temporary deformity; some little imperfection might betray
itself. But here, in his book, which we read three thousand
miles away from him, we receive his noblest thoughts,--his best
spiritual revelations; and we know him, and commune with him most
intimately, not through local but through spiritual affinities.

And how pleasing is the though that not even death interrupts
this relation. Years, as well as miles--ages may separate us
from the great and good man; but we hold with him still that
living communion of the spirit. Our best life may flow to us
from this communion. Some of our richest spiritual treasures
have been deposited in this intercourse of thought. Some of our
noblest hopes and resolutions have been animated by those whose
lips have long since been sealed,--whose very monuments have

A dear friend goes away from us to a foreign land. We watch the
receeding sail, and feel that that is a bond between us, until it
fades away in the far blue horizon. Then it is a consolation to
walk by the shore of that sea, and to realize that the same
waters lave the other shore, where he dwells,--to watch some
star, and know that at such an hour his eye and thought are also
directed to it. Thus the soul will not entertain the idea of
absolute separation, but makes all those material objects agents
for its affinities. But how much nearer does that absent one
come to us, when we know that at such an hour we both are
kneeling in prayer, and that our spirits meet, as it were, around
the footstool of God!

Thus we see that even in life there are spiritual relations which
bind us to our fellows, and that often these are dearer and
stronger than those of local contact. Why should we suppose that
death cuts off all such affinities? It does not cut them off.
It only removes the loved from our converse and our sight; but
if, when absent in some distant land of this earth, we are
conscious of still holding relations to them, do we not retain
the same though they have vanished into that mysterious and
unseen land which lies beyond the grave? "She is not dead, but
sleepeth." Christianity has taught us to look away from the
ghastly secrets of the sepulchre, and not consider that changing
clay as the friend we mourn, but as only the cast-off and
mouldering garment. It has kindled within us a lively
appreciation of the continued existence of those who have gone
from us; taught us to feel that the thoughts, the love, the real
life of the departed, all, in fact, that communed with us here
below, still lives and acts. And our relations to them are
relations which we bear, not to abstractions of memory, to
phantoms of by-gone joy, but to spiritual intelligences, whose
current of being flows on uninterrupted, with whose current of
being our own mingles. I know not how it is with others, but to
me there is inexpressible consolation in this thought.

But I would suggest that, as spiritual beings, we bear even a
closer relation to the departed. I said that Christianity has
transformed the whole idea of life. It has shown that we are
essentially spirits, and that our highest relations are
spiritual. If so, it seems an arrogant assumption to deny that
any intercourse may exist between ourselves and the spiritual
world. Possessing as we do this mysterious nature, throbbing
with the attraction of the eternal sphere, who shall say that it
touches no spiritual confines,--that it has communion only with
the beings that we see? It is a dull atheism which repudiates
all such intimations as superstitious or absurd. To speak more
distinctly, I allude to the consoling thought which springs up
almost intuitively, that the departed may, at times, see us, and
be present with us, though we do not recognize them. For wise
and good reasons, our senses may so constrain us that we cannot
perceive these spiritual beings. But the same reasons do not
exist to shut them from beholding and visiting us. The most
essential idea of the immortal state is that it yields certain
prerogatives which we cannot possess in our mortal condition.
may it not be, therefore, that while it is our lot to be
restricted to sensuous vision, and to behold only material forms,
it is their privilege, having received the spiritual sight, to
see both spiritual and material things?

Nor need we imagine that immortality implies distance from
us,--that change of state requires any great change of place.
Looking through this earthly glass, we see but darkly; but when
death shatters it we may behold close around us the friends we
have loved, and find their spiritual peculiarity is not
incompatible with such near residence. The homes of departed
spirits may be all around us,--these spirits themselves may be
ever hovering near, unseen in our blindness of the senses. At
all events, we deem it one of the grand distinctions of spirit
that it is not confined to one region of space, but may pass,
quick as its own intelligence, from sphere to sphere. And while
I would rebuke rash speculation, I would also rebuke the cold
materialism which unhesitatingly rejects an idea like this which
I have now suggested.

I maintain, moreover, that such speculation is not all idle. It
serves to quicken within us the thought of how near the dead may
be to us, to purify that thought, and to breathe upon our fevered
hearts a consoling hope. And when I combine its intrinsic
reasonableness with the spirit and spiritualism of Christianity,
and that intuitive suggestion which springs up in so many souls,
I can urge but faint objection to those who entertain it, and
would, if possible, share and diffuse the comfort which it gives.
Nearer, than, than we imagine--close as in mortal contact, and
more intimately--may be those whom we, with earthly vision behold
no more; visiting us in hours of loneliness, and affording unseen
companionship; watching us in the stillness of slumber, and
reflecting themselves in our dreams.

But, whether we indulge this notion or not, let us realize the
relation which we have with the departed by the ties of mutual
spirituality. Let us not coldly restrict or weaken this
relation. If the material world is full of inexplicable
things,--if we cannot explain the secret affinities of the star
and the flower,--let us feel how full of mystery and how full of
promise is this spiritual universe of which we are parts, and
whose conditions we so little know. Let us cherish that
transcendent faith, that quick, spiritual sympathy, which says of
the departed, "They are not dead, but sleeping."

III. Finally, we have with the dead the relation of discipline.
Though we should see them only in the abstractions of
memory,--though it should be true that they have no spiritual
intercourse with us,--yet their agency in our behalf has not
ceased. They still accomplish a work for us. That work is in
the moral efficacy of bereavement and sorrow. In their going
away they lead our thoughts out beyond the limits of the world.
They quicken us to an interest in the spiritual land. as one who
looks upon a map, and listlessly reads the name of some foreign
shore, so, often, do we open this blessed revelation not heeding
its recital of the immortal state. But as, when some friend goes
to that distant coast, that spot on the map becomes, of all
places, most vivid and prominent, so when our loved ones die, the
spiritual country largely occupies our thoughts and attracts our
affections. They depart that we may be weaned from earth. They
ascend that we may "look steadfastly towards heaven." If this is
not our everlasting home, why should they all remain here to
cheat us with that thought? If we must seek a better country,
should there not be premonitions for us, breaking up, and
farewells, and the hurried departure of friends who are ready
before us? I need not dwell on this suggestion. We are too much
of the earth, earthy, and bound up in sensual interests. It is
often needful that some shock of disappointment should shake our
idea of terrestrial stability--should awake us to a sense of our
spiritual relations--should strike open some chasm in this dead,
material wall, and let in the light of the unlimited and immortal
state to which we go. We need the discipline of bereavement in
temporal things, to win us to things eternal. And so, in their
departure, the loved accomplish for us a blessed and spiritual
result, and instead of being wholly lost to us, become bound to
us by a new and vital relation.

But these loved ones depart, no merely to bind our affections to
another state, but to fit us better for the obligations of this.
Perhaps, in the indulgence of full communion, in the liquid ease
of prosperity, we have scantily discharged our social duties. We
have not appreciated love, because we have never felt its
absence. We have shocked the tenderest ties, because we were
ignorant of their tenderness. We have withheld good offices,
because we knew not how rare is the opportunity to fulfil them.
But when one whom we love passes away, then, realizing a great
loss, we learn how vital was that relation, how inestimable the
privilege which is withdrawn forever. How quick then is our
regret for every harsh word which we have spoken to the departed,
or for any momentary alienation which we have indulged! This,
however, should not reduce us to a morbid sensitiveness, or an
unavailing sorrow, seeing that it is blended with so many
pleasant memories; but it should teach us our duty to the living.
It should make our affections more diligent and dutiful. It
should check our hasty words, and assuage our passions. It
should cause us, day and night, to meet in kindness and part in
peace. Our social ties are golden links of uncertain tenure,
and, one by one, they drop away. Let us cherish a more constant
love for those who make up our family circle, for "not long may
we stay." The allotments of duty, perhaps, will soon distribute
us into different spheres of action; our lines, which now fall
together in a pleasant place, will be wide apart as the zones, or
death will cast his shadow upon these familiar faces, and
interrupt our long communion. Let us, indeed, preserve this
temper with all men--those who meet us in the street, in the
mart, in the most casual or selfish concerns of life. We cannot
remain together a great while, at the longest. Let us meet,
then, with kindness, that when we part no pang may remain. Let
not a single day bear witness to the neglect or violation of any
duty which shall lie hard in the heart when it is excited to
tender and solemn recollections. Let only good-will beam from
faces that so soon shall be changed. Let no root of bitterness
spring up in one man's bosom against another, when, ere long,
nature will plant flowers upon their common grave. "Let not the
sun go down upon our wrath," when his morning beams may search
our accustomed places for one or both of us, in vain.

Thus, if the dead teach us to regard more dutifully the living,
they will accomplish for us a most beautiful discipline. Their
departure may also serve another end. It may teach us the great
lessons of patience and resignation. We have been surrounded by
many blessings, and yet perhaps, have indulged in fretfulness. A
slight loss has irritated us. We have chafed at ordinary
disappointments, at little interruptions in the current of our
prosperity. We have been in the habit of murmuring. And now
this great grief has overtaken us, that we may see at what little
things we have complained,--that we may learn that there is a
meaning in trouble which should make us calm,--that we had no
right to these gifts, the privation of which has offended us, but
that all have flowed from that mercy which we have slightly
acknowledged, and peevishly accused. This great sorrow has
stricken us, piercing through bone and marrow, in order to reach
our hearts, and touch the springs of spiritual life within us,
that henceforth, we may look upon all sorrow in a new light.
Little troubles have only disturbed the surface of our nature,
making it uneasy, and tossing it into fretful eddies; this heavy
calamity, like a mighty wind, has plunged into the very depths,
and turned up the foundations, leaving us, at length, purified
and serene. I believe we shall find it to be the general
testimony that those who have the least trouble are the loudest
complainers; while, often, the souls that have been fairly swept
and winnowed by sorrow are the most patient and Christ-like. The
pressure of their woe has broken down all ordinary reliances, and
driven them directly to God, where they rest in sweet submission
and in calm assurance. Such is the discipline which may be
wrought out for us by the departure of those we love. Such, and
other spiritual results, their vanishing may secure for us, which
we never could have gained by their presence; and so it may be
said by some departing friend,--some one most dear to our
hearts,--in a reverent sense, as the Master said to his
disciples, "It is expedient for you that I go away; for if I go
not away the Comforter will not come unto you."

As I have already touched upon the region of speculation, I
hardly dare drop a hint which belongs here, though it grows out
of a remark made under the last head. But I will say that it is
not unreasonable to suppose that the departed may perform a more
close and personal agency than this which I have just dwelt upon.
Often, it may be, they are permitted messengers for our welfare;
guardians, whose invisible wings shield us; teachers, whose
unfelt instructions mysteriously sway us. The child may thus
discharge an office of more than filial love for the bereaved
parents. The mother may watch and minister to her child. The
father, by unseen influences, win to virtue the heart of his poor
prodigal. But whether this be so or not, certain are we that the
departed do discharge such an agency, if not by spiritual contact
with us, or direct labor in our behalf, by the chastening
influence that their memory sheds upon us, by uplifting our
thoughts, by spiritualizing our affections, by drawing our souls
to communion with things celestial and with God.

Let us see to it, then, that we improve this discipline; that we
quench not the holy aspiration which springs up in our sorrow;
that we neglect not the opportunity when our hearts are softened;
that we continue the prayer which first escaped our lips as a
sigh and a call of distress; that the baptism of tears lets us
into the new life of reconciliation, and love, and holiness.
Otherwise, the discipline is of no avail, and, it may be, we
harden under it.

And, finally, let me say, that the faith by which we regard our
relations to the departed in the light that has been exhibited in
this discourse, is a faith that must be assimilated with our
entire spiritual nature. It must be illustrated in our daily
conduct, and sanctify every thought and motive of our hearts. We
should not seek religion merely for its consolations, and take it
up as an occasional remedy. In this way religion is injured. It
is associated only with sorrow, and clothed, to the eyes of men,
in perpetual sadness. It is sought as the last resort, the
heart's extreme unction, when it has tried the world's nostrums
in vain. It is dissociated from things healthy and active,--from
all ordinary experiences,--from the great whole of life. It is
consigned to the darkened chamber of mourning, and the weary and
disappointed spirit. Besides, to seek religion only in
sorrow,--to fly to it as the last refuge,--argues an extreme
selfishness. We have served the world and our own wills, we have
lived the life of the senses, and obeyed the dictates of our
passions so long as they could satisfy us, and now we turn to God
because we find that he only can avail us! We seek religion for
the good it can do us, not for the service we can render God. We
lay hold of it selfishly, as something instituted merely for our
help, and lavish our demands upon it for consolation, turning
away sullen and skeptical, it may be, if these demands are not
immediately answered. Many come to religion for consolation who
never apply to it for instruction, for sanctification, for
obedience. Let us learn that we can claim its privileges only by
performing its duties. We can see with the eye of its clear,
consoling faith, only when it has spiritualized our entire being,
and been developed in our daily conduct. Affliction may open
religious ideas in the soul, but only by the soul's discipline
will those ideas expand until they become our most intimate life,
and we habitually enjoy celestial companionship, and that
supersensual vision of faith by which we learn our relations to
the departed.

That faith let us receive and cherish. If we live it we shall
believe it. No sophistry can steal it from us, no calamity make
us surrender it. But the keener the trial the closer will be our
confidence. Standing by the open sepulchre in which we see our
friends, "not dead, but sleeping," we shall say to insidious
skepticism and gloomy doubt, in the earnest words of the poet,

"O! steal not thou my faith away,
Nor tempt to doubt a lowly mind.
Make all that earth can yield thy prey,
But leave this heavenly gift behind.
Our hope is but the seaboy's dream,
When loud winds rise in wrath and gloom;
Our life, a faint and fitful beam,
That lights us to the cold, dark tomb;

Yet, since, as one from heaven has said,
There lies beyond that dreary bourn
A region where the faithful dead
Eternally forget to mourn,
Welcome the scoff, the sword, the chain,
The burning waste, the black abyss:--
I shrink not from the path of pain,
Which leads me to that world of bliss.

Then hush, thou troubled heart! be still;--
Renounce thy vain philosophy;--
Seek thou to work thy Maker's will,
And light from heaven shall break on thee.
'Twill glad thee in the weary strife,
Where strong men sink with falling breath;--
'Twill cheer thee in the noon of life,
And bless thee in the night of death."

The Voices of the Dead

"And by it he being dead yet speaketh." Hebrews xi. 4.

Much of the communion of this earth is not by speech or actual
contact, and the holiest influences fall upon us in silence. A
monument or symbol shall convey a meaning which cannot be
expressed; and a token of some departed one is more eloquent than
words. The mere presence of a good and holy personage will move
us to reverence and admiration, though he may say and do but
little. So is there an impersonal presence of such an one; and,
though far away, he converses with us, teaches and incites us.
The organs of speech are only one method of the soul's
expression; and the best information which it receives comes
without voice or sound. We hear no vocal utterance from God, yet
he speaks to us through all the forms of nature. In the blue,
ever-arching heaven he tells us of his comprehensive care and
tender pity, and "the unwearied sun" proclaims his constant and
universal benevolence. The air that wraps us close breathes of
his intimate and all-pervading spirit; and the illimitable space,
and the stars that sparkle abroad without number, show forth his
majesty and suggest infinitude. The gush of silent prayer--the
sublimest mood of the spirit--is when we are so near to him that
words cannot come between; and the power of his presence is felt
the most, felt in the profoundest deep of our nature, when the
curtains of his pavilion hang motionless around us. And it is
so, I repeat, with all our best communions. The holiest lessons
are not in the word, but the life. The virtues that attract us
most are silent. The most beautiful charities go noiseless on
their mission. The two mites reveal the spiritual wealth beneath
the poor widow's weeds; the alabaster box of ointment is fragrant
with Mary's gratitude; the look of Christ rebukes Peter into
penitence; and by his faith Abel, being dead, yet speaketh.

Yes, even the dead, long gone from us, returning no more, their
places left vacant, their lineaments dimly remembered, their
bodies mouldering back to dust, even these have communion with
us; and to speak of "the voices of the dead" is no mere fancy.
And it is to that subject that I would call your attention, in
the remainder of a brief discourse.

"He being dead yet speaketh." The departed have voices for us.
In order to illustrate this, I remark, in the first place, that
the dead speak to us, and commune with us, through the works
which they have left behind them. As the islands of the sea are
the built-up casements of myriads of departed lives,--as the
earth itself is a great catacomb,--so we who live and move upon
its surface inherit the productions and enjoy the fruits of the
dead. They have bequeathed to us by far the larger portion of
all that influences our thoughts, or mingles with the
circumstances of our daily life. We walk through the streets
they laid out. We inhabit the houses they built. We practise
the customs they established. We gather wisdom from books they
wrote. We pluck the ripe clusters of their experience. We boast
in their achievements. And by these they speak to us. Every
device and influence they have left behind tells their story, and
is a voice of the dead. We feel this more impressively when we
enter the customary place of one recently departed, and look
around upon his work. The half-finished labor, the utensils
hastily thrown aside, the material that exercised his care and
received his last touch, all express him, and seem alive with his
presence. By them, though dead, he speaketh to us, with a
freshness and tone like his words of yesterday. How touching are
those sketched forms, those unfilled outlines in that picture
which employed so fully the time and genius of the great
artist--Belshazzar's feast! In the incomplete process, the
transition-state of an idea from its conception to its
realization, we are brought closer to the mind of the artist; we
detect its springs and hidden workings, and therefore feel its
reality more than in the finished effort. And this is one reason
why we are impressed at beholding the work just left than in
gazing upon one that has been for a long time abandoned. Having
had actual communion with the contriving mind, we recognize its
presence more readily in its production; or else the recency of
the departure heightens the expressiveness with which everything
speaks of the departed. The dead child's cast-off garment, the
toy just tossed aside, startles us as though with his renewed
presence. A year hence, they will suggest him to us, but with a
different effect.

But though not with such an impressive tone, yet just as much, in
fact, do the productions of those long gone speak to us. Their
minds are expressed there, and a living voice can do little more.
Nay, we are admitted to a more intimate knowledge of them than
was possessed by their contemporaries. The work they leave
behind them is the sum-total of their lives--expresses their
ruling passion--reveals, perhaps, their real sentiment. To the
eyes of those placed on the stage with them, they walked as in a
show, and each life was a narrative gradually unfolding itself.
We discover the moral. We see the results of that completed
history. We judge the quality and value of that life by the
residuum. As "a prophet has no honor in his own country," so one
may be misconceived in his own time, both to his undue
disparagement, and his undue exaltation; therefore can another
age better write his biography than his own. His work, his
permanent result, speaks for him better--at least truer--than he
spoke for himself. The rich man's wealth,--the sumptuous
property, the golden pile that he has left behind him;--by it,
being dead, does he not yet speak to us? Have we not, in that
gorgeous result of toiling days and anxious nights,--of
brain-sweat and soul-rack,--the man himself, the cardinal
purpose, the very life of his soul? which we might have surmised
while he lived and wrought, but which, now that it remains the
whole sum and substance of his mortal being, speaks far more
emphatically than could any other voice he might have used. The
expressive lineaments of the marble, the pictured canvas, the
immortal poem;--by it, Genius, being dead, yet speaketh. To us,
and not to its own time, are unhoarded the wealth of its thought
and the glory of its inspiration. When it is gone,--when its
lips are silent, and its heart still,--then is revealed the
cherished secret over which it toiled, which was elaborated from
the living alembic of the soul, through painful days and weary
nights,--the sentiment which could not find expression to
contemporaries,--the gift, the greatness, the lyric power, which
was disguised and unknown so long. Who, that has communed with
the work of such a spirit, has not felt in every line that
thrilled his soul, in every wondrous lineament that stamped
itself upon his memory forever, that the dead can speak, yes,
that they have voices which speak most truly, most emphatically
when they are dead? So does Industry speak, in its noble
monuments, its precious fruits! So does Maternal Affection
speak, in a chord that vibrates in the hardest heart, in the pure
and better sentiment of after-years. So does Patriotism speak,
in the soil liberated and enriched by its sufferings. So does
the martyr speak, in the truth which triumphs by his sacrifice.
So does the great man speak, in his life and deeds, glowing on
the storied page. so does the good man speak, in the character
and influence which he leaves behind him. The voices of the dead
come to us from their works, from their results and these are all
around us.

But I remark, in the second place, that the dead speak to us in
memory and association. If their voices may be constantly heard
in their works, we do not always heed them; neither have we that
care and attachment for the great congregation of the departed
which will at any time call them up vividly before us. But in
that congregation there are those whom we have known intimately
and fondly, whom we cherished with our best love, who lay close
to our bosoms. And these speak to us in a more private and
peculiar manner,--in mementos that flash upon us the whole person
of the departed, every physical and spiritual lineament--in
consecrated hours of recollection that upon up all the train of
the past, and re-twine its broken ties around our hearts, and
make its endearments present still. Then, then, though dead,
they speak to us. It needs not the vocal utterance, nor the
living presence, but the mood that transforms the scene and the
hour supplies these. That face that has slept so long in the
grave, now bending upon us, pale and silent, but affectionate
still,--that more vivid recollection of every feature, tone, and
movement, that brings before us the departed just as we knew them
in the full flush of life and health,--that soft and consecrating
spell which falls upon us, drawing in all our thoughts from the
present, arresting, as it were, the current of our being, and
turning it back and holding it still as the flood of actual life
rushes by us,--while in that trance of soul the beings of the
past are shadowed--old friends, old days, old scenes recur,
familiar looks beam close upon us, familiar words reecho in our
ears, and we are closed up and absorbed with the by-gone, until
tears dissolve the film from our eyes, and some shock of the
actual wakes us from our reverie;--all these, I say make the dead
to commune with us as really as though in bodily form they should
come out from the chambers of their mysterious silence, and speak
to us. And if life consists in experiences, and not mere
physical relations,--and if love and communion belong to that
experience, though they take place in meditation, or in dreams,
or by actual contact,--then, in that hour of remembrance, have we
really lived with the departed, and the departed have come back
and lived with us. Though dead, they have spoken to us. And
though memory sometimes induces the spirit of heaviness,--though
it is often the agent of conscience, and wakens u to
chastise,--yet, it is wonderful how, from events that were deeply
mingled with pain, it will extract an element of sweetness. a
writer, in relating one of the experiences of her sick-room, has
illustrated this. In an hour of suffering, when no one was near
here, she went out from her bed and her room to another
apartment, and looked out upon a glorious landscape of sunrise
and spring-time. "I was suffering too much to enjoy this picture
at the moment," she says, "but how was it at the end of the year?
The pains of all those hours were annihilated,--as completely
vanished as if they had never been; while the momentary peep
behind the window-curtain made me possessor of this radiant
picture for evermore." "Whence came this wide difference," she
asks, "between the good and the evil? Because good is
indissolubly connected with ideas,--with the unseen realities
which are indestructible." And though the illustration which she
thus gives may bear the impression of an individual personality,
instead of a universal truth, still, in the instance to which I
apply it, I believe it will very generally hold true, that memory
leaves a pleasant rather than a painful impression. At least,
there is so much that is pleasant mingled with it that we would
not willingly lose the faculty of memory,--the consciousness that
we can thus call back the dead, and hear their voices,--that we
have the power of softening the rugged realities which only
suggest our loss and disappointment, by transferring the scene
and the hour to the past and the departed. And, as our
conceptions become more and more spiritual, we shall find the
real to be less dependent upon the outward and the visible,--we
shall learn how much life there is in a thought,--how veritable
are the communions of spirit; and the hour in which memory gives
us the vision of the dead will be prized by us as an hour of
actual experience and such opportunities will grow more precious
to us. No, we would not willingly lose this power of memory.
One would not say, "Let the dead never come back to me in a
thought, or a dream; let them never glide before me in the still
watch of meditation; let me see, let me hear them no more, even
in fancy;"--not one of us would say this; and, therefore, it is
evident, that whatever painful circumstance memory or association
may recall,--even though it cause us to go out and weep
bitterly,--there is a sacred pleasure, a tender melancholy, that
speaks to us in these voices of the dead, which we are willing to
cherish and repeat. It makes our tears soft and sanctifying as
they fall; it makes our hearts purer and better,--makes them
stronger for the conflict of life.

I remark, finally, that the dead speak to us in those religious
suggestions--those consolations, invitations, and hopes--which
the bereaved spirit indulges. Our meditations, concerning them
naturally draw us more closely to these spiritual realities which
lie beyond the grave, and beget in us those holier sentiments
which we need. That such is the tendency of these recollections
experience assures us. They open for us a new order of thought;
they bring us in contact with the loftiest but most neglected
truths. Even the hardest heart feels this influence. It is
softened by the stroke of bereavement and, for the time being, a
chastening influence falls upon it, and it always thinks of the
dead with tenderness and awe. They speak to our affections with
an irresistible influence; they soothe our turbulent passions
with their mild and holy calmness; they rebuke us in their
spiritual majesty for our sensuality and our sin. They have
departed, but they are not silent. Though dead, they speak to
us. Sweet and sanctifying is their communion with us. They
utter words of warning, too, and speak to us by the silent
eloquence of example. By this they bid us imitate all that was
good in their lives, all that is dear to remember. By this, too,
they tell us that we are passing swiftly from the earth, and
hastening to join their number. A little while ago, and they
were as we are;--a little while hence, and we shall be as they.
Our work, like theirs, will be left behind to speak for us. How
important, then, that we consider what work we do! They assure
us that nothing is perpetual here. They bid us not fasten our
affections upon earth. In long procession they pass us by, with
solemn voices telling of their love and hatred, their interests
and cares, their work and device;--all abandoned now and passed
away, as little worth as the dust that blows across their graves.
Upon all that was theirs, upon every memorial of them, broods a
melancholy dimness and silence. They recede more and more from
the associations of the living. New tides of life roll through
the cities of their habitation, and upon the foot-worn pavements
of their traffic other feet are busy. Their lovely labor, or
their stately pomp, is forgotten. No one weeps or cares for
them. Their solicitous monuments are unheeded. The companions
of their youth have rejoined them. The young, who scarcely
remembered them, are giving way to another generation. The
places that knew them know them no longer. "This, this," their
solemn voices preach to us, "is the changeableness of earth, and
the emptiness of its pursuits!" They urge us to seek the noblest
end, the unfailing treasure. They bid us to find our hope and
our rest, our only constant joy in Him, who alone, amid this
mutability and decay, is permanent,--in God!

Well, then, is it for us to listen to the voices of the dead. By
so doing, we are better fitted for life, and for death. From
that audience we go purified and strengthened into the varied
discipline of our mortal state. We are willing to stay, knowing
that the dead are so near us, and that our communion with them
may be so intimate. We are willing to go, seeing that we shall
not be widely separated from those we leave behind. We will toil
in our lot while God pleases, and when he summons us we will
calmly depart. When the silver cord becomes untwined, and the
golden bond broken,--when the wheel of action stands still in the
exhausted cistern of our life,--may we lie down in the light of
that faith which makes so beautiful the face of the dying
Christian, and has converted death's ghastly silence to a
peaceful sleep; may we rise to a holier and more visible
communion, in the land without a sin and without a tear; where
the dead shall be closer to us than in this life; where not the
partition of a shadow, or a doubt, shall come between.

Mystery and Faith

"For we walk by faith, not by sight." II Corinthians v. 7.

It needs only common experience, and but little of that, to
convince us that this life is full of mystery, and at every step
we take demands of us faith. For at every step we take we
literally walk by faith; in every work we do we must have
confidence in something which is not by sight, in something which
is not yet demonstrated. Skepticism carried to its ultimate
consequences is the negation of everything. It closes up the
issues of all knowledge, and sunders every ligament that binds us
to practical life. We must have faith in something or we stand
on no promises; we can predicate nothing. It may be said that in
the experience of the past we have a guide for the future; but
then, must we not have faith in experience? Do we not trust
something which is not yet demonstrated when we say "This cause
which produced that effect yesterday will produce a similar
effect today or tomorrow?" How do we know--positively know, that
it will produce that effect, and what are the grounds of our
knowledge? This boasted "cause and effect," this "experience,"
what right have we to rely upon it for one moment of the future?
Not for that moment has it demonstrated anything;--it
demonstrated for the time being, and the time being only; and our
confidence that it will do so again is faith, not sight--faith in
cause and effect, faith in experience, but faith after all.
Hume, the philosopher, has illustrated the positions which have
now been taken. "As to past experience," says he, "it can be
allowed to give direct and certain information of those precise
objects only, and that precise period of time which fell under
its cognizance; but why this experience should be extended to
future times, and to other objects, which for aught we know may
be only in appearance similar; this is the main question on which
I would insist. The bread which I formerly ate nourished me;
that is, a body of such sensible qualities was, at that time,
endued with such secret powers; but does it follow that other
bread must also nourish me at another time, and that like
sensible qualities must also be attended with like secret powers?
The consequence seems nowise necessary." And yet we eat our
bread, day by day, without a doubt or a fear. We sow the grain
and we reap the wheat, but for all the work is done in faith, and
the whole process is steeped in mystery. In that scattering of
the golden seed, what confidence is expressed in elements that we
cannot see, in beneficent agencies that we cannot control, in
results that are beyond our power, and that in their growth and
development are full of wonder exceeding our wisdom. Give up
faith; say that we will act only upon that which is demonstrated
and known, say that we will walk only so far as sight reaches,
and we completely separate the present from the future, and stop
all the mechanism of practical life.

But if we take a wider view of things, and consider this material
universe in which we live, the great fact of mystery and the need
of faith will be urged upon us by a larger and more impressive
teaching. The more we learn of nature the more clearly is
revealed to us this fact--that we know less than we thought we
did; positively, we know more, but relatively we know less,
because as we have advanced nature has stretched out into wider
and wider relations. The department that was unknown to us
yesterday is explored to-day. Yesterday, we thought it was all
that remained to be explored, but the torch of investigation that
guided us through it now flares out upon new regions we did not
see before. Like one who goes with a candle into some immense
cavern, presently a little circle becomes clear, the shadows
vanish before him, and undefined forms grow distinct. he thinks
he is near the end, when lo! what seemed a solid boundary of rock
dissolves and floats away into a depth of darkness, the path
opens into an immense void, new shapes of mystery start out, and
he learns this much that he did not know before, that instead of
being near the end, he is only upon the threshold. We do not
mean to imply by this that we have no positive knowledge, or that
we do not increase in knowledge. With every new discovery we
positively know more and more. But the new discovery reveals the
fact that more is yet to be known; it lays open new regions, it
unfolds new relations that we had not before suspected.

We follow some tiny thread a little way, and hold it secure, but
it is connected with another ligament, and this branches out into
a third; and instead of exhausting the matter, we find ourselves
at the root of an infinite series, of an immense relationship,
upon which we have only just opened; and yet what we have is
positive knowledge, is something more added to our stock. The
circle of the known has positively widened, but the horizon of
the unknown has widened also, and, instead of being to us now, as
it seemed some time ago, a solid and ultimate limit, it is only
an ethereal wall, only to us a relative boundary, and behind are
infinite depths and mystery. Our scientific knowledge at the
present day reaches this grand result--it clears up the deception
that the system of nature is mere flat, dead materiality, a few
mechanical laws, a few rigid forms. It shows that these are only
the husks, the outer garments of mighty forces of subtile,
far-reaching agencies; and the most common, every-day truths,
that seemed stale and exhausted, become illuminated with infinite
meaning, and are the blossoms of an infinite life.

The wider our circle of discovery, the wider our wonder; the more
startling our conclusions, the more perplexing our questions. We
have not exhausted the universe;--we have just begun to see its
harmony of proportion and of relations, without penetrating a
fathom into its real life. How and what is that power that works
in the shooting of a crystal, and binds the obedience of a star;
that shimmers in the northern Aurora, and connects by its
attraction the aggregated universe; that by its unseen forces,
its all-prevalent jurisdiction, holds the little compass to the
north, blooms in the nebula and the flower, weaves the garment of
earth and the veil of heaven, darts out in lightning, spins the
calm motion of the planets, and presides mysteriously over all
motion and all life? And what is life, and what is death, and
what a thousand things that we touch, and experience, and think
we know all about? O! as science, as nature opens upon us, we
find mystery after mystery, and the demand upon the human soul if
for faith, faith in high, yes, in spiritual realities; and this
materialism that would shut us in to death and sense, that denies
all spirit and all miracle, is shattered like a crystal sphere,
and the soul rushes out into wide orbits and infinite
revolutions, into life, and light, and power, that are of
eternity,--that are of God!

Thus the scale is prepared for us to rise from things of sense to
things of spirit, to rise from faith in nature to faith in
Revelation, from the faith of LaPlace to the faith of Paul. No
one who has studied nature will reject Christianity because it
reveals truths that he cannot see with his naked eye,--because it
speaks of things that he cannot comprehend. No one who has
considered the shooting of a green blade will dogmatically deny
its miracles. No one who has found in the natural world the
intelligent wisdom that pervades all things, will wonder that he
discovers a revelation of perfect love in Jesus Christ. "We walk
by faith, not by sight," said Paul. So says every Christian; and
it is of all things the most rational. Faith in something higher
and greater than we can see, faith in something above this narrow
scene, faith in something beyond this present life, faith in
realities that are not of time or sense; from all that we have
now considered we claim such faith to be most rational, most
natural. God, spirit, immortality, instead of being inconsistent
with what we know, are what we most legitimately deduce from
it,--what we might expect from the light that trembles behind the
curtain of mystery which bounds all our sensuous knowledge. We
do believe, the veriest skeptic believes in something behind that
curtain of mystery; nor can he withhold his faith because it
attaches to that which is unseen and incomprehensible, without,
as has already been shown, cutting every nerve that binds us to
practical life, and smothering every suggestion that speaks from
outward nature. If he do not believe in a God, then, or in
Christ, or in immortality, let him not sneer at others because
they walk by faith and not by sight; for he also must do so,
though his faith be not in such high truths, such spiritual

The Christian's faith is an Infinite Father and an immortal life,
and though he cannot see them, cannot come in material contact
with them, he believes them to be the greatest of all realities,
and he sees them by faith, a medium as legitimate as that of
sight. They are mysteries, but everything contains a mystery;
they demand of him what every day's, every hour's events demand
of him--faith. Let us understand, however, that faith is not the
surrendering of our minds to that which is irrational and
inconsistent. These terms should not be confounded with the
mysterious and the incomprehensible. That the earth moves and
yet stands still is not a proposition that demands faith. It is
in the province of reason to say that it cannot move and stand
still at the same time. It is an inconsistency. But how the
earth moves on its axis, what is that law that makes it move, is
an incomprehensibility. An incomprehensibility is one thing, an
inconsistency is another thing. The one conflicts with our
reason, the other is beyond it. In that which conflicts with our
reason we cannot have faith, but as to that which is beyond it we
exercise faith every day; for we literally walk by faith and not
by sight.

Who shall say, then, that God, immortality, and those high truths
revealed by Jesus, are inconsistent? Do they not conform to the
highest reason? Do not our deepest intuitions demand that these
revelations should be true? Consult your nature, examine your
own heart, consider what you are, what you want, what you feel,
deeply want, keenly feel, and then say whether the Revelation of
a God, a Father, and an immortal life, satisfies you as nothing
else can. Take them away, and would there not be a dreary and
overwhelming void? And because you have not seen God, because
you have not realized immortality, because they reach beyond your
present vision, because the grave shuts you in, because they are
high and transcendent truths, will you reject them? Do so, and
try to walk by sight alone. With that nature of yours, so full
of love, with that intellect of yours so limitless in capacity,
you are apparently a child of the elements, a thing of physical
nature, born of the dust, and returning to it. With desires that
reach out beyond the stars, with faculties that in this life just
begin to bud, with affections whose bleeding tendrils cling
around the departed, wrestle with death, and say to the grave,
"Give up the dead! they are not thine, but mine; I feel they must
be mine forever," with all these desires, capacities, affections,
you walk--so far as mere sight helps you--among graves and decay,
with nothing more enduring, nothing better, than three-score
years and ten, the clods of the valley, the crumbling bone, and
the dissolving dust! Because God and immortality are mysterious,
incomprehensible, reject them, and walk only by sight? The
humblest outpouring of human affection rebukes thy skepticism;
the most narrow degree of human intellect prophesies beyond all
this; the darkest heart, with that spark of eternal life, the
yearning that moves beneath all its sensualities, and speaks for
better, for more enduring things,--that rebukes thee; and in
man's moral nature, in his heart and his mind, there is that
which only can be satisfied, only can be explained by God and
immortality. They alone, then, are rational, they alone have
comprehensive vision, who walk by faith, and not by sight.

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