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rare and radiant beauty the cheek of youth,
all tell us of death. The mountains, the
valleys, the streams, the singing-birds, every-
thing in nature tells us of death. I who
speak to you am a living memorial of death.
You who hear me are living memorials of
death. The burden of nature's groaning
seems to be one unvarying dirge, telling us
that all flesh is as grass, and that the goodli-
ness thereof is as a flower of the field. Oh,
then, it is difficult to get away from the grasp
of these ideas, surrounded as we are by the
atmosphere of death. Dying creatures our-
selves, we can hardly imagine that time and
death will be no more ; but it shall come.
Immortality ! How few of us can spell the
word in all its deep significance ! Immor-
tality! Once get within those golden


streets, and you have looked your last on
age, and weariness, and change, and lassi-
tude, and pain, and death. Once get
within those golden streets, and every eye
will flash and sparkle with the new vigour of
immortal youth ; and it is whispered upon
every breath, and it is chanted in every
song, and it is heard in every aspiration of
the imperishably redeemed, " For ever, for
ever, for ever with the Lord ! " "I am come
that they might have life, and that they
might have it more abundantly."

Jesus the Only Saviour.

" Neither is there salvation in any other."
To have allowed a plurality of saviours would
have been to have indicated a faltering con-
fidence, or an unsatisfied claim. If the
covenant has been literally fulfilled ; if the
law has been abundantly vindicated ; if
mercy and truth shone in blended majesty
from the crest of Calvary, all other offering
were at once exuberant and insulting. "It
is finished ! " That was the triumphant
death-cry to which Heaven gave joyful re-


sponse, and -which neither men nor devils
could gainsay or resist ; and therefore the
exclusiveness springs from the sufficiency.
There needs no other Saviour, so there is no
other Saviour. None but Christ is needed,
and so none but Christ is given. We can
imagine the serene satisfaction with which
the twelve would assent to this doctrine
which Peter propounded in their name.
Perhaps they would remember times in their
former lives when this great question came
upon them, lashing the sluggish current of
their ordinary existence into storm ; when
inner chords were struck heavily, and thrilled
with most sensitive vibration ; when thoughts
of most subtle associations were suggested
which led to the contemplation of eternity,
and they shuddered as they felt themselves
its unconscious heirs — how from each inves-
tigation they either groped in painfullest un-
certainty, or rushed only too eagerly away.
But they have found Jesus now, and their
souls have got new streni;,th from the com-
panionship ; and they do not blanch from
the recollection of their former doubt and
trouble. They are like soldiers who have
survived the campaign, and who fight the


battles o'er again around the hearthstone,
where it is impossible for the enemy's weapons
to wound, or for the enemy's forces to rout
them. They are like an old wayfarer who
can tell again of the trials of the storm, and
of the terror of the threatening reef and the
roaring breakers, while he is enjoying the
blaze and the comfort of the warm eyes and
the warm fires that are around him ; and
their whole souls would rush into their eyes,
crying, " Lord, to whom shall we go ? "

The Search for HaJ)pt7iess,

God is love, and love is happiness. The
Creator, Himself serenely and eternally
happy, has intended all His creatures to be
happy too. He stamped that intention on
the very face of nature. The smile of the
dancing sunbeam, the bashful beauty of the
flower, all speak of happiness. Every breeze
that fans our shore, and every wave that
kisses it, are full of a speaking joy, and
nothing but God is found in the original
arrangements of the universe. It is nothing
but sin, nothing but sin, that has brought


such a tlight over tliis beautiful world.
}3ut then, unhappily, men are so blinded,
that their common judgment of the resi-
dence of happiness is almost uniformly erro-
neous ; and that which is not, and which
cannot be, the growth of earth, is sought in
worldly objects, objects which perish in the
using. It may be that I have got satisfac-
tion-seekers here to-night. I would appeal
to your own consciousness and candour, if I
have. Vanity is inscribed upon every earthly
stream, and emptiness upon every earthly
object of attachment. How was it in your
own cases ? You have sought happiness
long enough. Some of you have sought it
in all varieties of pleasure, and in all varieties
of profit. Perhaps you sought it in wealth,
and the farm or the money, the stock or the
merchandise, was the metropolis of your affec-
tions ; and the world prospered with you, and
your wealth increased— yes, and your care
increased, and your desire increased, and
your covetousness increased too ; and your
dispositions seemed to narrow, perhaps, as
your wealth increased, and you set your
mind upon your gathered store, and in your
reflective moods it engrossed you thoroughly,


and your hand involuntarily clutched it as if
it were grasping its gold ; and when you
came out of this reverie, your head was hot,
your lips were parched, and the summer
breezes could hardly cool the fever on your
brow ; — and what then ? Why, the reaction,
the reaction ! The sound of the falhng leaf
chasing you ; the nameless anxiety with
which each change in the stocks, the markets,
the funds, or the weather, is watched ; the
continual fear of poverty, which seems as if
it were appointed by God, like an avenging
sprite, to dog and haunt and harass those
that will be rich ; and, above all, that sad,
provoking, intrusive thought that you have
tried so often to stifle, but which murder
cannot kill — the thought that though failure
or pain may not come and rob the lord of his
property, death will come to rob the property
of its lord. And you call this happiness !
Or perhaps you sought it in pleasure; yes,
you sought it in pleasure ! you went into the
gaming-house — perhaps it was the inner
chamber, truly, and, for ought I know, pro-
phetically, designated hell ; and quaffing
meanwhile the intoxicating cup, with fearful
excitement you watched with kindling eye


and frenzied soul the casting of the die ; and,
as the event happened, you were either trans-
ported with triumph, or gnashed your teeth
in rage. And you call this happiness ! Or
perhaps you mingled with the world, where-
ever it proclaimed its carnival. You have
been found in beauty's circle, and, as you
have swept down the lighted ball-room, and
whirled in the giddy dance, and the music
rose with voluptuous swell, you have thought
— " Here, surely, is the dwelling of the gay
spirit ; I have found it at last. ' But you
have looked under the surface, and found it
was tinsel, and not gold, you saw. The
smiling there was as light upon the grave,
and cold hearts were beneath it. You marked
the strife of fashion's gay votaries, and their
flushed cheek, and curled lip of success, and
the bitter, bitter, bitter mortification of failure,
and at the close of your day of dissipation,
you went home with a wounded heart and
fevered brow to a sleepless pillow. And you
call this happiness ! And that is all. Let it
go forth. It is time it did. Let the poor
swindled ones know on what they have
trusted. That is all that the world can give
in fulfilment of its promise of satisfaction and


of peace ; and, with your broken vows, and
blighted hopes, and withered hearts, and
desolate houses, " and cheeks all pale, that
but a while ago blushed in praise of their
own loveliness," you may well exclaim, in
the words of the Preacher, " Vanity of vanity,
all is vanity ! "

Godliness Pi-ofitable.

Godliness, the nobler life, the life that is
hidden with Christ in God, hath the pro-
mise of that which now is, as well as that
which is to come. It has been fashionable
for its enemies, and for those, — a very great
number, and some of them here perhaps,
— who have been seeking for excuses to
justify them in neglecting its claims; — it
'has been fashionable for them to represent
it as a gloomy system, withering all the
flowers in the path of the traveller, bringing
a hue of desolation and mourning upon the
rejoicing universe of God. Christianity a
.gloomy system ! The world and devils may
say so; but a thousand eyes that sparkle
■with a hope that maketh not ashamed, and a


thousand hearts that beat happily with the
full pulse of spiritual life, can tell thee thou
liest. Christianity a gloomy system ! Why,
it is the Christian only that can thoroughly
enjoy the world. Tci him, to his grateful
vision, earth is garlanded with fairer beauty,
heaven sparkles with serener smiles ; to him
the landscape is the more lovely, because it
reminds him of the paradise of his hope in
prospect, which his father once lost, but
which his Saviour has brought back again,
as a family inheritance for ever ; to him the
ocean rolls the more grandly, because it
figures out the duration of his promised life ;
to him the birds in their forest minstrelsy
warble the more sweetly, because their wood-
land music takes him upwards to the harpers
harping with their harps in heaven ; to him
the mountains tower the more sublimely,
because their heaven-pointing summits are
the emblems of his own majestic hopes.

" His are the mountains and thevallej's—
His the resplendent groves — his to enjoy,
With a propriety which none can feel
But who, with filial confidence inspired.
Can lift to heaven an unpresumptuous eye,
And smiling bay, My Father made them all."


Eternal Life.

That there is another world, outlying from
the field of sense, with which each of us has
a subtle and personal connexion, is a truth
to which instinct inclines, which reason
yearns to demonstrate, and upon which
Scripture has fastened the certainty of a
positive revelation. The idea of a future
world in the abstract is probably present to
every man. It may be fairly questioned
whether, on this matter, there ever was an
infidel. Some have professed to disbelieve,
I knoAv ; and in those years of unbridled
carnival which preceded the first French
Revolution, they wrote upon the walls of
Christian temples, " Death is an eternal
sleep ; " but that was the mad ache of
passion, and those that were the wildest
in the delirium were the most superstitious
in solitude, and turned pale when omens
were sinister, and when the avenging con-
science woke up upon the blaspheming
death-bed. There have been others who
have affected scepticism, but in all cases the
rebel heart has been the prompter to the
inquisitive intellect, and the wish the father


to the thought. I hold it impossible for any
to entertain the idea of a future world with-
out being haunted, to say the least of it, by
the tremendous possibilities of its truth. A
man may exclude it ; he may lose sight of
it amid the entanglements of sophistry ; he
may rush to escape from it into some garish
hall of pleasure, or into some desperate
enterprise where passion murders thought ;
but let the thought once have a lodgment
within — let it present itself broadly and in
all its relations before his mind, and the
man cannot refuse its acknowledgment ; all
his instincts will rise up in its favour, and
will protest against the scepticism which
would belie them. Aspirations after immor-
tality, stifled often but not dead, will become
mutinous if they be not allowed expression ;
and there will be a clashing of faculties in
munnuring dissent within him, like the
clashing of swords in a council chamber
when the decision has been given for war.
Brethren, you hww that there is a future
world ; it does not require any argument to
prove it. No train of reasoning would im-
press it more conclusively upon your mind
There is a force in that consciousness of


yours which startles you with the remem-
brance, oftentimes when you would rather
forget it, that you must live for ever. You
know that life is not a brief beacon-fire
which in a moment is kindled, sparkles, and
is quenched ; but a sun ruling the day of
man's present, suffering a short occultation
in the grave, and then rising for eternal
shining in the sky of immortality. You
know all this ; there is a keen and a restless
instinct within you which apprises you of it
continually. The monarch of Macedon had
his messenger at hand to remind him in the
midst of his festivity, " Philip, remember
thou art mortal ! " That keen and restless
instinct which you may not wholly silence
performs this office for you, and reminds you
— does it not .'' — amid the tumult of the life
that now is, of that life which is beyond, — so
solemn, so still, so changeless, so inscrutable,
— which is the inheritance, the belonging
of you all There, in the cradle, is your be-
ginning, but there, in the grave, is not your
end. Your life will be hidden in mortality ;
but when they search for it, the sepulchre
will deny its possession, and the grave will
say, " It is not in me," and destruction and


death will say, " We have heard the fame
thereof with our ears." You must live for
ever !

And then it is equally true, and it is
equally impressed, perhaps, upon the uni-
versal consciousness, that this future world
is a state of conscious, as well as of immortal,
existence. The thought of responsibility is
co-extensive with the thought of immor-
tality; and that conscious future existence
has a retributive connexion with the doings
of the present life. Immortal existence —
conscious immortal existence — responsible
mortal existence— is the heritage of you all.
Imagination has darted down into the
fathomless obscure, and, basing her visions
upon some traditionary remembrances of an
original revelation, has peopled the world to
come with angelic or misshapen forms, and
with all the accessories of beauty or of terror.
You cannot get rid of this belief, travel where
you will. Go and examine the records of
ancient paganisms ; go and trace out the
aboriginal idolatries of the Western world ;
go look into the voluptuous imposture of
Mohammed, and you find underlying them
all the same idea of probation and of recom-


pence. Each of them, of course, looks upon
the matter from its own stand-point, and
conceives of it as adapted to its own votaries ;
but the idea of conscious responsible exist-
ence is, beyond all question, present with
them all. Heaven — a vast hunting-field to
the untutored Indian, a Walhalla of heroes
to the classical martial pagan, a sensual
court of houris to the voluptuous Mussul-
man — is in all systems regarded as some-
thing awarded for fidelity here, a renewal of
the pursuits and intercourses of earth, and a
perpetuity of interest in the affairs of this
mortal coil.


The idea of probation and of recompence,
present in all the systems of error, is deep-
ened in the gospel into an overwhelming
and solemn fact. We are here, the Scrip-
tures assure us, in the midst of a world of
uncounted thousands, active, earnest, fluc-
tuating, called to be citizens with our fellows,
called to be industrious for the benefit of our
families, called to be beneficent after our


measure, called to take our part in the great
sweep and roar of human life, called to
battle with temptation, called to subdue sin,
called to brace ourselves, called to succour
others, called to evolve out of ourselves the
image of the heavenly ; and yet we are to be
judged at last by laws that are not human,
but Divine ; we are to be scrutinised by a
Being who sees all the events, and influences,
and circumstances that have helped to con-
firm us in the right, or that have helped to
v.-arp us to the wrong ; and we are to be
tried by the records of a book which lets
nothing escape its register, but w^iich sets
down in impartial chronicle, not more the
crises of our being, than the unnoticed
matters which make up the history of every
day. Oh, to think of it, brethren ! You
and I, since last Sabbath — and it is not long
since then — have done something, it may be
a great deal, towards shaping our character
for eternity. Thoughts casually entertained,
words idly spoken, deeds done in the routine
of daily life, all have been parts in that pre-
paratory process by whose results we shall
abide. Calm and unchequered to the most
of us, perhaps, have these two or three davs


been ; but we have not done with them — we
shall see their results again. Unconscious
limners, they have been taking our like-
nesses for the future ; scribes at work un-
wittingly, they have written down a register
about us in the book of God's remembrance.
How solemn, in this aspect of it, is the life
that now is !

Temple Worship.

They deprive themselves of a very large in-
heritance of blessing, and are deeply criminal,
" who forsake the assembling of themselves
together, as the manner of some is," in the
place where the grand ordinance of preaching
is established, where the sacraments are duly
administered, and where united and solemn
prayer is wont to be made. The ordinances
of religion, indeed, may, and, doubtless, very
often are, observed only in external decorous-
ness. The song may be a formal praise ; the
prayer may be a lip-service only ; the whole
may be a Sabbath compromise with consci-
ence for a week's indulgence in sin : but to
the true-hearted and to the contrite worship-
per, it is from the temple that the healing


waters flow. The heart, ignorant of God
and of its own duty, and conscious that the
reconcihation for which it pants must be
achieved only through the merits of another,
hears of that other in the temple, and is glad.
The contrite one, loathing himself and his
former practices of iniquity, bows cheerfully
in the temple, as he says, " The foohsh shall
not stand in Thy sight : Thou hatest all

workers of iniquity But as for me, I

will come into Thy house in the multitude
of Thy mercy : and in Thy fear will I wor-
ship toward Thy holy temple." Here, as in
a spiritual laver, the soul of the polluted re-
ceives the cleansing of the water and of the
Word. Here the poor children of sorrow
smile through their tears, as they are satis-
fied with the goodness of His house ; and the
lame halts no longer as he emerges from this
Bethesda of the paralysed, whose waters have
been stirred from on high. It is from be-
tween the cherubim that God especially
shines ; it is among the golden candlesticks
that He still walks to bless His people ; and
here, as in a gorgeous and well-furnished hall
of banquet, believers eat of the fatness of His
house, and drink of the river of His pleasure ;


and in the temple are at once the highest
teaching and the most satisfying comfort,
the closest fellowship with God and the most
effectual preparation for heaven.


God is the great original of light. There
was a time when it was not, when this world
was a nameless and unfinished chaos. God
said, Let there be Hght : and there was light.
All the forms and modifications of light may
be traced up to this act of the great Creator,
who made two great lights — the greater light
to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule
the night. From the fount of the sun all the
streams of light are flowing. Light is pre-
sented to us in ever-var>'ing conditions, but
it is always the same ; there is a oneness in
its essence after all. It is the same light that
glistens on the wings of the fire-fly, and blazes
on the ruddy hearth-stone, and sparkles on
the jewels of the diadem, and flashes in beauty
in the morning. Science tells us that those
prolific beds of coal in the bowels of the earth
were once forests on its surface, forests of


luxurious vegetation ; that they incorporated
the sun's rays, and then in merciful convul-
sions were embedded in the centre of the
lower earth by an all-provident foresight for
the wants of an inhabited world. Science
tells us, too, that time was when the shape-
less crystal was yet new to its covering of
earth. Subjected to the wheel of the lapidary,
it sparkles out to view as a gem of the purest
w^ater. It is but the release of imprisoned
rays, which shone from the same great source,
long centuries ago ; so that both in the cot-
tage fire-light and in the monarch's gem we
have just the resurrection of some olden sum-
mer, the great return of some sepulchred sun-
light from which man has rolled away the

Now, whether this scientific theory be true
or not, certain it is that in our spiritual con-
dition we are in darkness, all of us gross and
utter, until the true light shineth on us from
on high. We have no native light above us ;
we cannot gather any from any of the sources
by v/hich we are surrounded. " Ever}' good
and perfect gift cometh down from above,
from the Father of lights, with whom there is
no variableness, neither shadow of turning."


The RJione and the At'i.'e.

There is an illustration of the gospel, as
far as earthly things can illustrate heavenly,
that some of you may have seen, in Na-
ture's beauteous kingdom. I stood some
years ago near the fair city of Geneva,
where two great rivers meet, but do not
mingle. Here the Rhone, the arrowy Rhone,
rapid and beautiful, pours out its waters of
that heavenly blue which it is almost w^orth
a pilgrimage to see, and there the Arve,
frantic and muddy, partly from the glaciers
from which it is so largely fed, and partly
from the clayey soil that it upheaves in its
impetuous path, meet and run on side by
side for miles, with no barriers save their own
innate repulsions, each encroaching now and
then into the province of the other, but beaten
back instantly into its own domain. Like
mighty rival forces of good and evil do they
seem, and for long — just as it is in the world
around us — for long the issue is doubtful ;
but if you look far down the stream, you find
the frantic Arve is mastered, and the Rhone
has coloured the whole surface of the stream
with its owm emblematic and beautiful blue.


I thought, as I gazed upon it, that it was a
remarkable illustration of the conflict between
truth and error ; and in meditating upon this
subject, in thinking of the flow of the healing
waters, and reading that they should flow
into the sea and heal it, the whole thing rose
up before me, fresh and vivid as a thing that
happened yesterday ; and as my own view
of the passage has been cleared, and my
own faith strengthened by the recollection, I
would fain, by this simple picture, impart
the same blessedness to you. Oh ! with a
glad heart and free do I believe and preach
that there is no ailment, no leprosy, no death,
that is beyond the power of the healing of the
gospel of Jesus Christ. Is it yours ? Have
you been healed ? Are you rejoicing in its
love, and life, and blessing, and wealth now ?
Oh ! take to yourselves the responsibility as
well as the gladness of the thought of the
light that is in you — the light of your oppor-
tunity and of your privilege. " If therefore
the light that is in thee be darkness, how
great is that darkness I "



Why do the fierce flames gather and hiss
about the bars of gold ? Why, but to purge
all the dross of it away. Why does the
sharp knife pierce into the living heart and
shear off the glossy leaves of the fruit-bearing
tree ? Why, but to prune it into greater
plenty and into ampler fruit. My brother,
do trials surround thee to-day? Are there
difficulties in thy onward path ? Art thou
looking forward and around and beholding
hardly a gleam ; a twilight gleam through
the darkness ? Be comforted ; it is God's
purpose for thee of higher usefulness^ of
richer grace. Do not rashly part company
with these stranger trials, perhaps you may
entertain angels unawares. God has never
yet employed any one of His servants in ex-
tensive usefulness without a previous train-
ing. Moses, in the wilderness of Midian ;
David, in the hold of Engedi ; Joseph, in
the desert pit and in the Egyptian prison ;

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Online LibraryWilliam Morley PunshonLife thoughts → online text (page 9 of 11)