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Is it possible to gaze on the triumphs which such Death-Bed Scenes exhibit, without being convinced of the reality and dignity of religion? "I am aware that some will object to the strain of devout extacy, which characterizes the sentiments and language of these saints, in their dying moments; but I am persuaded they will meet with nothing, however ecstatic and elevated, but what corresponds to the dictates of Scripture, and the analogy of faith. He who recollects that the Scriptures speak of a peace which passeth all understanding, and of a joy unspeakable and full of glory, will not be ofended at these lively expressions, he will be more disposed to lament the low state of his own religious feeling, than to suspect the propriety of sentiments the most rational and scriptural, merely because they rise to a pitch that he has never reached. The sacred oracles afford no countenance to the supposition that devotional
feelings are to be condemned as visionary and enthusiastic, merely on account of their intenseness and elevation: provided they be of a right kind, and spring from legitimate sources, they never teach us to suspect they can be carried too far.
That the objects which interest the heart in religion are infinitely more durable and important than all others, will not be disputed; and why should it be deemed irrational to be affected by them in a degree somewhat suitable to their value, especially in the near prospect of their full and perfect possession? Why should it be deemed strange and irrational for a dying saint, who has spent his life in the pursuit of immortal good, to feel an unspeakable ecstasy at finding he has just touched the goal, finished his course, and in a few moments is to be crowned with life everlasting? While he dwells on the inconceivably glorious prospect before him, and feels himself lost in wonder and gratitude, and almost oppressed with a sense of his unutterable obligations to the love of his Creator and Redeemer, nothing can be more natural and proper than his sentiments and conduct. While the Scriptures retain their rank as the only rule of faith and practice, while there are those who feel the power of true religion, such Death-Bed Scenes as these will be contemplated with veneration and delight. It affords no inconsiderable confirmation of the truth of Christianity, that the most celebrated
sages of pagan antiquity, whose last moments have been exhibited with inimitable propriety and beauty, present nothing equal nor similar, nothing of that singular combination of humility and elevation, that self-renouncing greatness, in which the creature appears annihilated, and God all in all. I am much mistaken if the serious reader will not find in the scenes which have been exhibited, the most perfect form of Christianity; he will find it, not as it is too often, clouded with doubts and oppressed with sorrows; he will behold it ascend the mount, transfigured, glorified, and encircled with the beams of celestial majesty."
And if the extatic joy which has been felt in prospect of entering the invisible world, by those whose obituaries have been given in the preceding pages be traced up to its source, it will be found to spring from faith in the death and intercession of the Lord Jesus Christ. His peculiar, though unseen presence, gave to them in their last moments, all their elevated bliss; but that presence always bore a special reference to the exercise of their faith in him. They saw more clearly than most, the evil of sin-the depravity of their own nature-the defects which were apparent in the best obedience they had ever paid to the sanctity of the divine law; and if they had been left to the natural tendency of these discoveries, they would have sunk into the
deepest depression, and would have departed in an agony of mind too acute aud awful for description. But in the redemption made by Christ Jesus, they saw "Mercy and truth meeting together; righteousness and peace embracing each other;"* and placing all their dependance on its efficacy, they "rejoiced in hope of the glory of God." Though their moral character was adorned with the beauties of virtue, and the relative duties of social life had been discharged by them, with a uniformity and delicacy of feeling equalled by few, and surpassed by none, yet they forebore to make any allusion to themselves, except to deplore their infirmities-deriving all their hope from this fact, that "we are saved by grace through faith; and that not of ourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them."+
And though many deem it an act of presumption to anticipate such a triumphant death, yet may there not be lurking under this admission, more unbelief, than humility? Why may we not anticipate it? Are we sinners? So were theyare we abased in the divine presence on account of our depravity and unworthiness? So were they. Have we our fears lest our faith should fail us in
• Ps. lxxxv. 10.
+ Eph. ii. 8, 9, 10.
the trying hour? So had they. Did they not ascribe all their peace, their joy, their hope of glory, to the sovereign grace of God, abounding towards them, through the Lord Jesus Christ, and is not that grace able to abound to an equal degree towards us? Has He impoverished its riches by giving to others? or will he leave us destitute because we feel too unworthy of his regard? No. Impossible! Are we not commanded to give diligence to make our calling and election sure? and to induce us, does not the Apostle say, "For so an entrance shall be administered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ."*
"Then let our souls march boldly on,
There shall we wear a starry crown,
While all the armies of the skies
Join in our glorious leader's praise.
2 Peter i. 11.