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Let us turn from the scene where the dead chieftain stands propped against the tree, with his worldly goods around him, and the perplexed inquiries of his friends are drowned in the noise of their guns for want of some better answer, to a bereaved home in a Christian land, where the same question trembles on the lips of childhood, brought for the first time face to face with death.
“Oh, father, why is she gone from us-why did she die?” And half shrinking, half eager with natural fear and strong affection, the warm lips kiss the cold cheek for the last time before the fair form of the young mother is carried to its last resting-place. Even the Christian father, in that desolate hour, has no voice to give the answer; but by-andby, after the last rites are paid, and father and child are left to mourn together, and the agony of grief has given place to calmer endurance of the inevitable, the answer comes, and, like many a sweet reminder, comes from the faith of the little child
“ Father, I know now why she is gone away; I remember the texts she taught me, ‘Absent from the body, to be present with the Lord ;' To depart and to be with Christ is far better.' God loved her, and so He took her to be always happy with Him. Isn't that it, dear father?" And the father clasped closer his little comforter, and blessed God for the triumphant faith which had realised the meaning of those inspired words, and left their beautiful impression on the hearts of those whom she loved next to Christ, and for whose sakes she was content to live or to die, as He judged best.
Yes, “that is it," indeed, for the children of God, for believers in His Son, who know the whole of the wonderful secret that “the wages of sin is death,"
,"l that “ by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin ; and so death
1 passed upon all men, for that all have sinned ;"2 and not only so, but who know also the bright sequel to the dark story, that “the gift of God is eternal life, in Christ Jesus our 1 Romans vi. 23.
2 Romans v. 12.
Lord ;” that “ by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous ;” that “as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive, "1 first, spiritually, as regards the soul,
" quickened to newness of life by the power of the Spirit of God, and united to Him by faith; and then materially and visibly, by the same Spirit that raised up Jesus from the dead, when “this mortal shall put on immortality,” when the sting of death is gone, for sin is pardoned; when the grave is rifled of its prey, for Jesus rose “ the resurrection and the life,” and where the Head of the new creation goes the members follow; “ because I live," He said, “ye shall live also," and so “death is swallowed up in victory." This is the Divine account that revelation gives of a mystery that nothing else explains; this is the answer to a question that only the believer in that revelation can contemplate without alarm, without distress, with perfect peace and joyful hope.
But what of those who reject the testimony and ignore the facts-who live on, trying to forget they must die, or if they are forced to remember it sometimes, try hard to believe there ends their history: no hereafter, no happiness, no misery, no reaping as they have sowed, no justice, no God.
Man in Eden dared God to a proof of His own sincerity, and found Him true; the miserable dupe of Satan's malice and his own presumption found that what God said He would surely do, and it was done. And as “He is faithful that promised,” so is He faithful that threatened. And there is no escape from His hand outstretched for judgment on wilful rebels, but in His bosom of pitiful love and welcome for repentant sinners. And now, in the higher sense of man's spiritual being,
, God Himself puts the same question, "Why will ye die ?" In this aspect you need not die. God has made a way by which where “sin has abounded” grace may abound.” “ God so loved the world that He gave What? Who? Another world? An archangel? A legion
1 i Corinthians xv. 22.
of angels ? No, something higher, nearer, dearer than all. Part of His own eternal Being: "His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” “ He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.”
There was no other way, and there is no other explanation of that death of the only just and holy man who ever trod the earth in perfect unsinning obedience and purity from the cradle to the grave; and He alone won the right to rise, the new creation's glorious Head.
This is the light that Divine love has cast across life's otherwise dreary path, the ray that shines into the very tomb, and writes on coffin-lids the Christian's burial motto, “My flesh also shall rest in hope," while the released spirit wings away to the full development of eternal life,"hid with Christ in God."
Say, sceptic, have you any theory to exceed in wisdom this ? Unbeliever, is there anything preferable for the high cultivation of your manly reason, in the blackness of darkness that shrouds your conclusions about the future?
What hope have you for sick beds? What comfort for mourners? Annihilation! What! is that the best you can promise for your deified reason, your mighty intellect, your proud superiority over the beasts that perish? Oh, how are the mighty fallen! Or universal restoration to perfected eternal existence? Where is the lever to raise from beneath the incubus that sits in triumph on doomed humanity ? Who can touch the spring polluted at its source, bid it leave behind its poison, and of itself grow pure again? There is no element of restoration left in human nature; it is corrupt, it has no hold on anything but what must crumble with itself.
Or possibly you may say that the wonderful thing called the soul of man must of necessity be an immortal principle, godlike, and in its ethereal existence perfect.
But what, then, is the stimulating power that makes men and women sin at all? Is it merely the material machine called the body that fails to obey the spirit? Is mere matter essentially and of itself evil ? Common sense rejects such idle fancy. And whence comes the admission that man has anything immortal or spiritual in him?
Ah! why will not the mind that unconsciously snatches at a gleam from the Word of Truth yield to its authority and bask in its full light?
Cannot you see that Christianity is the only answer to all human doubts and questionings, the true solution of all difficulties about man's history and destiny, a perfect and Divine provision for all human need, and a triumphant overthrow of all the evil that affects our race? Let but the Book of books, the Divine record of sin and salvation, have its proper place, and it will do its intended work. By the power of God the Spirit it will teach us why we die, and how to die so as “through the grave and gate of death to rise to glorious immortality.”
Answer, then, God's question, sinner, “Why will ye die?” Why turn from heaven and happiness? Is it not because
ye will not come to Him that ye may have life?" There is, there can be, no other reason.
“He that believeth on the Son (of God) hath everlasting life : and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life.” 1 Is he, therefore, extinct, annihilated ? Ah! no, “but the wrath of God abideth on him," and the soul so departing must bear the awful burden of that wrath which is the solemn necessity of love rejected, salvation despised. Then “He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still."2 Not justified by faith in the blood of Christ, not sanctified by the Holy Spirit, without the twin gifts that constitute salvation from wrath and meetness for heaven, eternally, continuously, for ever and ever.
L. E. G. * John iii. 36.
2 Revelation xxii. II.
The Early Snowdrop; or, Reprobed by Nature.
SADDENED, weary, one dark day
Where Nature, wrapped in slumber, kay
In peacefulness profound.
Within the frozen bed;
Perched, waiting to be fed.
Beneath the pure white sheet
Till silence was complete.
When from a little patch of earth
Two tiny leaves I spied-
Close by the bleak hedge-side.
So patient, yet so bold ;
In spite of gloom and cold.
On that bleak, wintry day ;
God's scattered frost thick lay.
Fair, fragile form, art thou ?
To deck chill Winter's brow?
“In slender robe of green thin clad,
Thou bendest o'er the earth,Like some meek spirit humbly glad,
Though lonely from her birth. “O dearly-prized of all the year,
Sweet tidings thou dost bring ; The knell thou art of Winter drear,
The matin of the Spring !
1 Job xxxvii. 9.