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is his faithfulness." Let us also not forget to close the ecclesiastical
year with earnest self-examination; and let each of us ask himself, in silent meditation, whether he has used and applied the means of grace that have been offered him according to the will of God, in order to advance daily in knowledge, in faith, and holiness ; whether he has paid due honour to God's word and sacraments; whether he has never shewn any indifference to, or even despised the preaching of the gospel, and thus obstinately resisted the influence of the Holy Spirit; and whether it can be truly said of him, that “ he has increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man !". Thus, my brethren, shall we rightly conclude the church's year, as is fitting and proper to Christians, who in this way prepare themselves most rightly for their end.
For, does it not appear to you natural that we should this day remember our end ; that, with the close of the year, we should conjoin reflections on the close of our earthly pilgrimage, and meditate calmly upon death? This is, indeed, most justly the peculiar purpose of the last Sunday in the church's year. Very fittingly is this Sunday devoted to the solemnization of the memory of our departed friends. How many of those who are dear to us have passed away during the course of this bygone year! They commenced it with us, but they have not, like us, lived to witness its end. Our eye seeks them in vain. The day of grace
is them, and they have sunk into the night of the grave. We stand at their tombs, weeping and lamenting, one for a dear wife the companion of his life, another for kind parents, a third for a beloved child ; and there
probably is not one of us at whom death has not struck a heavy blow during the past year, or at some previous time. To-day we renew the remembrance of our lost friends, partly to satisfy a necessity of the heart that longs for them, and cannot forget the blessings of their society, partly to comfort ourselves with the consolations which our faith gives us, even at the graves of the departed. And as we solemnize this recollection of
past for them, let us also call to mind our own end. Who knows how near our end is, who can tell how soon our last hour will strike, how soon we shall be called away from our daily tasks, and from the circle of our friends, to a higher completion ? “ Thou must die,” is the lesson which day after day preaches to each one of us; and to this sermon must be added the grave and earnest warning, “ Set thy house in order!" Hear it, O mortals, and take it to your hearts ! Set your house in order to-day-now, at this moment, that you may be ready when the Lord calls you, that you may be able to say with truth, “ whether my end come to-day or to-morrow, I know that with Jesus I am safe.”
Let us, then, at the close of the ecclesiastical year, look to the close of our earthly pilgrimage. And let us at the same time conclude the first part of our considerations relative to the lives of Christians during the earliest ages of our church. Our past researches have sufficiently shewn us, how the spirit that was in them was manifested in their thoughts and lives, how their whole walk was a witness of their faith, and their fellowship with their Redeemer, and had no other end in view than the glory of His name! We intend now, my brethren, to consider them in another point of view, to direct our attention to the form of the church life of those first Christians. And this conclusion of our considerations up to this time, will fit this day most appropriately. 'We celebrate to-day the feast of the departed. The early Christians also solemnized the memory of their dead, especially of those whom the Lord had perfected by martyrdom. We will now present to you the particulars of this solemnity; and thus shall we best learn how to celebrate, as Christians, the memory of our departed friends. And may the Lord bless our endeavours.
Text. And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.-ist Cor. xiii. 13.
In faith, hope, and charity, my brethren, are expressed the peculiar characteristics of a Christian. Faith, hope, and charity, comprise his whole nature, and accompany him through his whole life. Faith, hope, and charity, are the angels who support and console him in the most bitter sorrows and heaviest trials, which leave him not when pain and grief come upon him, when he weeps and laments at the bier, or the grave, of those who were dear above all else to his heart. If we look at the Christians of the earliest ages, we shall be convinced of this. If we look to their mode of solemnizing the memory of the departed, we shall find it to have been,
1st, A solemnization of faith, 2d, A solemnization of hope, 3d, A solemnization of love.
May we similarly celebrate the memory of our dead, that our recollection of them may be a truly Christian one!
Holy Father, sanctify us with thy truth; thy word is truth. Amen.
I. Christians, enlightened by the gospel, believe in one God, who is love, and who, with infinite wisdom, guides and governs everything, without any exception, little things as well as great, particular and individual, as well as things entire and general. Every man's destiny rests in His hand; he sends joy and pain ; life and death are in his power, all that he does is done aright, and all things are directed by his holy love to our happiness; wherefore the apostle says, that “ all things work together for good to them that love God.” Christians, enlightened by the gospel, believe in an eternal life, a blessed immortality, a resurrection of the body. Death, therefore, to them is no king of terrors, for they know that it is not an annihilation of their being, but a passage to a glorified and higher life, a call of a kind and heavenly Father, to that immortality in which they shall ever partake with their Redeemer. In this
faith the first Christians commemorated the
of their dead. They knew that they had not fallen sacrifices to a blind chance, or an inexorable fate, but that they had gone home at the call, and according to the will of eternal love, and were, by their departure from earth, so far from having vanished from the ranks of the living, that they had rather now first attained to true life in heavenly fellowship with their Redeemer and their God. Their day of death appeared to them their day of birth into a higher life of imperishable joy and glory, and however deeply they might have felt the separation from those whom they held dear, they yet suffered their faith to lessen and purify their sorrow, to hinder all wild outbreaks of grief, and change their mourning into calm sorrow, and gentle, childlike resignation to the guidance of God's paternal love, so that they could pray with comfort and firmness at the graves of the dead, “ The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord.” In fearful contrast to this calm, resigned mourning of Christians, stood the wild and often hypocritical expressions of sorrow among the heathens and Jews, and that rude custom by which mourners were hired to accompany the corpse with loud wailing. Christianity put an end to this custom; and, far as it was from its purpose to suppress all natural feelings, and to remove, as weak and sinful and contemptible, grief and mourning for departed friends, yet was its influence great in moderating and calming this sorrow by the power of faith. Of this the teachers of the church especially warned their flocks, as, among many others, Bishop Cyprian thus addressed his people, when a grievous pestilence at Carthage had snatched away many from among them : “ We may not bewail those who have been delivered from the world by the call of the Lord, as we know that they are not lost, but sent before hand to take leave of us, in order to precede us. long for those who are dead, as for those who have travelled
away from us, but we dare not bewail them. We dare not here below put on for them the dark robes
of mourning, for they have there already put on the white robes of glory. We must not give the heathen occasion to accuse us (and justly) of bewailing as lost those of whom we say that they live with God, and thus of not maintaining in our conduct and daily life the faith which we profess with our lips. We who believe and know that Christ has suffered and risen again for us, who remain in Christ, and shall rise again in and through him, should not fear even death, and be unwilling to depart out of this life, should not bewail as lost those of our friends who have parted from us, considering the comfort which our Saviour Christ hath given us : “ I am the resurrection and the life; he that believeth on me, though he were dead, yet shall he live; and whosoever liveth and believeth on me shall never die!”
Let us, then, my brethren, learn from those first Christians to celebrate the remembrance of the departed in the same spirit of faith, with childlike resignation to the unsearchable ways of our heavenly Father, who guides all things for the good of his saints, and with gratitude to his love, which hath prepared for our dear ones who sleep in Jesus an everlasting glory in heaven. We
e may, indeed, sorrow and weep, and by our tears honour the recollection of our friends, and testify how dear they were to our hearts, but we may not lament them as did the heathen, and give way without restraint to violent outbreaks of grief, as though there remained no more comfort for us, or as though we knew nothing of heavenly glory, and a blessed eternity. Doubt, and a refusal to be comforted, are no better than indifference and insensibility. Neither of them are becoming to Christians, who believe in the crucified one, who is dead and has risen again, and entered into his glory, with the comforting promise to his followers, that is where he is there shall his servant be also.” If, then, O sorrowing Christian, thou art this day renewing the remembrance of pious departed friends, and dost painfully feel that they no longer walk with thee in thy pilgrimage; if thou weepest for dear ones now asleep,