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not crush you. It will revive your courage and hope. It will keep you from being your own worst enemy, and destroying yourself by madness and by crime. It will save you from endless folly and wretchedness. It will avert from you hours of weeping and of remorse. It will prepare you both to live and to die.
Yes-to die! For I mean not that your minds should be barred against all thought of death. Only that it be not clothed with false and unreal terrors; and thus made an object of unmanly fear. Bodily dissolution is a matter neither of hope or dread. What is it but to cease to breathe, and to turn to dust?
This fact of
I look into the caverns of Death, and find nothing there half so wonderful or terrible as I meet in the broad light of day. Men speak of the awful mystery and solemnity of death. Would that they might ponder the more awful mystery of Life. a vital existence is the great wonder of creation. est act of God was not the moulding of external forms, but the inspiration of an independent life. We can imagine how the cold clay should be fashioned into the grace of a statue. But how life should enter into dead bodies-this is Nature's miracle. "God breathed into man the breath of life, and he became a living soul."
To live! What is it? It is to think, to feel, to suffer, to enjoy. Whatever of good or ill man can experience, is concentrated in that one word-Life. This is the most intense word in human language. So that when the Scriptures describe the completion of glory and blessedness, they speak of the heavenly state, not as everlasting happiness, but as everlasting life. Life then is the chief interest of man, and death itself becomes important only as introducing another life which is endless.
This is the true light in which to look upon death-not as the enemy of life, and its destroyer-but as its new creator-as a further development of the vital power, by which the soul, casting off it cumbrous clay, is born into immortality. As such, we would not relinquish the hope of death. It is a transformation too great-too magnificent-not to be welcomed as our supreme felicity. Life is no longer weighed down by a dark and dreadful fear. The heart is not oppressed and stifled by a dreary feeling of decay. To the last moment the pulse beats firm and high. As death approaches it throbs quicker with expectation. Life rides exulting and triumphant over every obstacle. It spans the arch of death, and urges its way upward forever. Glorious Death! Thou art not the end of life, but its fresh beginning. Eagerly we look for the moment when God's silent angel shall open the doors of eternity! We love to meditate that coming day, and—while we rejoice in all the good of this passing life— shall often turn aside to
“Walk thoughtful on the solemn, silent shore
BY REV. ELBERT S. PORTER,
PASTOR OF THE REF. PROT. DUTCH CHURCH WILLIAMSBURGH, L. I.
"AND THE BOOKS WERE OPENED."
"And the books were opened; and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the book, according to their works."-REV. xx. 12.
The present bears a most intimate relation to the future. And whether we believe it or not, there is a record of all our past which will hereafter be opened before us, and according to its registrations our eternal destiny will be fixed. The thought of to-day will meet us again; and the deed which was done in presence of few if any witnesses, will be read out before the audience of an assembled universe. So revelation teaches; so we believe. But there are many who think the threatened judgment a priestly device or ghostly bugbear, and in no wise to be feared. Scoffers ridicule the idea, and men of mere worldly views, if they think at all concerning the matter, are quite too ready to indulge the hope, that either the judgment tribunal will not be set, or if set, will not possess those tremendous adjuncts of justice and holiness, which the Sacred Oracles ascribe to it. And even within the pale of the church, there is an appalling amount of mere speculation respecting the great day of the Lord. And being little if any thing more than speculation, the doctrine of eternal judgment does not exert that practical control over the life, which a doctrine of so intrinsic an importance ought most surely to exert upon us all. To revivify our decaying impressions quicken our faith, and deeply impress us with a conviction of the certainty of the coming scene in which we shall all share a glad or sorrowful part, will be the object of the present discourse. We proceed to inquire what are the books which will be opened.
I. The book of the Material Universe will be opened.
The connection between mind and matter is most intimateand the most meagre attainments in the merest elements and rudiments of science familiarize us with the fact, that mind is the controlling and plastic power which rules over and impresses
matter to a wonderful extent. It is indeed the boast of modern achievement, that spirit, by its inventive skill, has subdued nature, and rendered the elements of matter subservient to its purposes. And while this is a thing of common and open notoriety, there are relationships between mind and matter of a nature far more astounding, than all those included within the ordinary range of scientific and mechanic art. There are relationships and points of contact between the thinking soul and the world of matter, which, instead of flattering our pride of intellect. may well awe our hearts, and fill us with holy fear. We say only, what the best teachers of natural science declare, when we aver that the outward world is a depository of the moral doings of each accountable man. Nature is the great ledger, on whose sheets a recording angel traces a record of our every thought and act. The air we breathe, the light which enwraps us, and the dull clod we press in the daily rounds of our business, are so many scribes, taking note of all our movements, and recording all our works. The heavens which surround us are the parchment scroll on which God's telegraphic agencies are ever tracing the symbolic characters that delineate our lives. This is not fancy, but the demonstrative testimony of the most exact and rigid science. In proof we advert to a few familiar illustrations.
We are accustomed to speak of matter as dead, inert, unfeeling. But the fact is, it is ever in motion, and always impressible. Every particle entering into the composition of the material world, is so nicely adjusted to every other particle, as to preserve its balance, while it ceaselessly vibrates. And while thus vibrating, every kind of matter--the granite rock as well as the yielding clay--are all busy in receiving impressions, just as wax takes and retains the image stamped upon it. Thus all the pages of nature are adapted to receive the image of our words. and works.
From this general, to proceed to more specific illustrations. Take the atmosphere. This is a fluid ocean-raising its waves and its ripples, similar to those which are visible on an ocean of waters. When you cast a stone into a sea or a lake, you set in motion a series of concentric circles, which recede farther and farther from the place of disturbance, until they finally become invisible. But, if when the naked eye loses the power of tracing them, it were assisted by a powerful magnifying glass, they would still be discerned rolling on. And if when the eye and the glass together should fail to follow them, recourse should be had to the searching analysis of mathematical investigation, it would be found that beyond a peradventure, they still continued to widen and widen, coming in contact with other circles originating from other centres, modified by them and modifying them in return; yet never losing their motion but entering into the permanent movements and forces which fill up the universe.
This is indeed a mystery, but no less a fact; and none but the illiterate or the sciolist will deny it. As this is true of impressions made on water, so also is it of impressions made on air. Our words, which are the outward flows of invisible thought, and every act, set in motion a series of waves, just as surely as do the vibrations of a bell when struck; and these waves enter into the permanent movements of the atmosphere; and are all preserved there and will be preserved until the heavens shall flee away. It argues nothing against this fact, that these waves become invisible or inaudible to us-for our perceptions are not the limits of material existence. If it be objected that the impressions produced upon the atmosphere may become infinitely minute, I answer that this minuteness will be no hindrance to their being read by Him, whose infinity embraces the minute as well as the vast.
In like manner we might go on to show that the unfeeling earth preserves, amid all the vibrations of its countless atoms, the record of human action. So that the lonely spot where the murderer dashed down his victim-the darkened cave, where persecution tracked his martyr, and the dungeon's wall where suffering virtue bowed the head in agony-are as so many memorialstones, whereon man's acts are engraven, as with the pen of a diamond; and there is no deed of man, whether done in the day or in the night, of which the insensible particles of earth are not the witnesses and the recording angels.
To confirm these illustrations and establish the general fact, we may avail ourselves of the aid which the nature and properties of light afford, in proof of a natural record of human transactions. I need not tell you that there is a light-bearing ether -a luminous fluid-diffused through all space and penetrating all bodies, however dense. The sun and the stars, singly, do not produce light. This is generated by the chemical and electrical power of the heavenly bodies, working upon, and in connection. with, this light-bearing ether. The sun puts in motion this fluid, so that light comes to us in waves. Now, if the sun be regarded as one, and the earth as another shore of an ocean, one hundred and ninety-five millions of miles across, then the wave on the opposite shore must impel a succession of waves, infinitely minute, through all the intervening space, until the last wave reaches the eye of the observer. The rapidity of these undulations or waves is so great, that only eight minutes of time are required for the delivery of an impression, made at the distance of 195,000,000 miles, to the eye of a spectator on our earth. Two august and imposing facts here meet us and compel our attention. Here is a medium of transmission as widely diffused as the universe; all impressions made on it are conveyed with a rapidity inconceivable. And this everywhere present ether becomes the means of daguerreotyping the forms of human transactions upon the tablets of nature. This earth may be regarded as a
mighty cylindrical press, with men for its types, and whose every revolution impresses upon the broad sheets of light that envelope it, the nature and character of each day's doings-of every man's work-yea, printing all upon a sheet which may be read almost instantaneously in the remotest regions of space. There is another thought in connection with this, which we ought not to omit.
It is known that a message forwarded by telegraph from New York to New Orleans, would, if the point of connection were formed, travel in about the same space of time from New York to Pekin-and will you tell me wherein the rapidity of electrical transmission on Morse's telegraph differs from the rate of transmission on God's telegraph? For the light which surrounds us is a divine telegraph, along whose lines the report of all our works is carried with a celerity surpassing thought. The work I do in secret, therefore, is published, as soon as done, in far off worlds. He who created the light reads its report; and may not spirits, good and bad, do the same?
Startling thought! That nature is everywhere present, witness and reporter of our works-that the spirits above and the spirits beneath are summoned to take knowledge of us! There is indeed "nothing hid which shall not be made manifest." When the day shall blaze for the revelation of all our doings, earth, air and sky shall disclose all that we have written and graven upon them-whether of word or deed-virtuous or vicious. This is to me a thought of the soberest and weightiest practical moment. It is a grand and imposing aspect which nature presents in her ceaseless activity. When we consider how busy are all her elements-how air, earth and sky are working in wondrous combination-that all are taking signs and impressions that will never be erased until the great day, it may well admonish us to beware indulging the hope that anything can be said or done beyond the observation of witnesses ever with us.
Lest some may set all this down to the score of fancy, I ask these plain questions.-Does not the geologist read on the rocks and in the fossils of bygone centuries the record of events which occurred long ere Adam breathed the air of paradise? Are there not now vibrations on the surface of the earth which sometimes startle whole communities? Does not the breeze carry on its wings tidings of things done far away from the reach of our vision? Is not light a swift-winged messenger to bear to us report of occurrences in far distant regions of space? And if all nature is thus occupied in bringing intelligence to us, is it fancy and not rather the demonstration of experience as well as of science, that nature is also occupied in bearing intelligence of us-that her every whisper, however faint, and her every sign, however obscure, can be read by Him who holds the universe in his hand and counteth the number of its atoms, is what we dare not doubt, if we believe in a God of infinite knowledge.