Part 31 DEATH
Life itself is a wonder, and in its principles inexplicable. Its preservation is not less so. Apparently, it depends on the circulation of the blood through the heart, the lungs, and the whole system, by means of the arteries and veins; and this seems to depend on the inspiration and expiration of the air by means of the lungs. While the pulsations of the heart continue, the blood circulates, and life is preserved. But this seems to depend on respiration, or the free inhaling of the atmospheric air, and expiration of the same. While, therefore, we freely breathe; while the lungs receive and expel the air by respiration or breathing; and the heart continues to beat, thus circulating the blood through the whole system, life is preserved. But who can explain the phenomena of respiration? And by what power do the lungs separate the oxygen of the air, for the nutrition, perfection, and circulation of the blood? And by what power is it that the heart continues to expand, in order to receive the blood, and contract; in order to repent, so that the circulation may be continued, which must continue in order that life may be preserved? Why does the heart not get weary and rest? Why is it that, with incessant labor, for even threescore and ten years, it is not exhausted of its physical power, and so stand still? These are questions which God alone can answer satisfactorily, because life depends on him, whatsoever means he may choose to employ for its continuance and preservation.
Every man, since the fall, has not only been liable to death, but has deserved it, as all have forfeited their lives because of sin.
Death could not have entered into the world, if sin had not entered first. It was sin that not only introduced death, but has armed him with all his destroying force. The goad or dagger of death is sin; by this both body and soul are slain.
The people who know not God are in continual torment, through the fear of death, because they fear something beyond death. They are conscious to themselves that they are wicked; and they are afraid of God, and terrified at the thought of eternity. By these fears thousands of sinful, miserable creatures are prevented from hurrying themselves into the unknown world.
Reader, thou art a tenant at will to God Almighty. How soon, in what place, or in what circumstances, he may call thee to march into the eternal world, thou knowest not. But this uncertainty cannot perplex thee, if thou be properly subject to the will of God, ever willing to lose thy own in it. But thou canst not be thus subject, unless thou hast the testimony of the presence and approbation of God. How awful to be obliged to walk into the valley of the shadow of death without this! Reader, prepare to meet thy God.
Death is at no great distance; thou hast but a short time to do good. Acquire a heavenly disposition while here; for there will he no change after this life. If thou diest in the love of God and in the love of man, in that state wilt thou be found in the day of judgment. If a tree about to fall lean to the north, to the north it will fall; if to the south, it will fall to that quarter. In whatever disposition or state of soul thou diest, in that thou wilt be found in the eternal world. Death refines nothing, purifies nothing, kills no sin, helps to no glory. Let thy continual bent and inclination be to God, to holiness, to charity, to mercy, and to heaven: then, fall when thou mayest, thou wilt fall well. I have never fallen out with life. I have borne many of its rude blasts, and I have been fostered by many of its finest breezes; and should I complain against time and the dispensations of Providence, then shame would be to me. Indeed, if God see it right, I have no objection to live on here till the day of judgment; for while the earth lasts, there will be something to do by a heart, head, and hand, like mine, as long as there is something to be learned, something to be sympathetically felt, and something to be done. I have not lived to or for myself. I am not conscious to myself that I have ever passed one such day.
It is a good antidote against the fear of death, to find, as the body grows old and decays, the soul grows young and is invigorated. By the "outward man" and the "inward man," St. Paul shows that he was no materialist. He believed that we have both a body and a soul; and so far was he from supposing that, when the body dies, the whole man is decomposed, and continues so to the resurrection, that he asserts that the decays of the one lead to the invigorating of the other; and that the very decomposition of the body itself leaves the soul in the state of renewed youth. The vile doctrine of materialism is not apostolic.
The nearer a faithful soul comes to the verge of eternity, the more the light and influence of heaven are poured out upon it: time and life are fast sinking away into the shades of death and darkness; and the effulgence of the dawning glory of the eternal world is beginning to illustrate the blessed state of the genuine Christian, and to render clear and intelligible those counsels of God, partly displayed in various inextricable providences, and partly revealed and seen as through a glass darkly in his own sacred word. Unutterable glories now begin to burst forth; pains, afflictions, persecutions, wants, distresses, sickness, and death, in any or all of its forms, are exhibited as the way to the kingdom, and as having in the order of God an ineffable glory for their result. Here are the wisdom, power, and mercy of God. Here, the patience, perseverance, and glory of the saints! Reader, are not earth and its concerns lost in the effulgence of this glory? Arise and depart, for this is not thy rest.
What do we know of the state of separate spirits?
What do we know of the spiritual world? How do souls exist separate from their respective bodies? Of what are they capable, and what is their employment. Who can answer these questions? Perhaps nothing can be said much better of the state, than is said Job x, 21: "A land of obscurity like darkness, and the shadow of death;" a place where death rules, over which he projects his shadow, intercepting every light of every kind of life: "Without any order," having no arrangements, no distinctions of inhabitants; the poor and the rich are there, the master and his slave, the king and the beggar; their bodies in equal corruption and disgrace, their souls distinguished only by their moral character.
Stripped of their flesh, they stand in their naked simplicity before God, in that place. "Where the light is as darkness:" a palpable obscure. It is space and place, and has only such light or capability of distinction as renders darkness visible! It is a murky land, covered with the thick darkness of death: a land of wretchedness and obscurities, where is the shadow of death, and no order but sempiternal horror dwells everywhere: a duration not characterized or measured by any of the attributes of time: where there is no order of darkness and light, night and day, heat and cold, summer and winter. It is the state of the dead! The place of separate spirits! It is out of time, out of probation, beyond change or mutability! It is on the confines of eternity; but what is THIS...? and where? Eternity! how can I form any conception of thee? In thee there is no order, no bounds, no substance, no progression, no change, no past, no present, no future. It is an indescribable something, to which there is no analogy in the compass of creation. It is infinity and incomprehensibility to all finite beings. It is what living I know not, and what I must die to know; and even then I shall apprehend no more of it than merely to know that it is ETERNITY....
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