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Ephesians III. 14, 15, OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST, OF WHOM THE WHOLE FAMILY I HEAYE A D EARTH IS AMED. Jesus was never so much one with his disciples, as when he was no longer with them; they were never so widely severed from him, as when, with unawakened and dim-discerning heart, they lingered around him, with eyes so holden that they did not know him. ( The nearest in person may clearly be the furthest in soul ; they may eat at the same table, and morning and night exchange the greeting and the parting look, yet each remain outside the spirit of the other, — severed even by an impassable chasm, to which the earth's diameter would be less than an arm's length, j But where the inner being, rather than the mere outer, has been passed together, and we have found in some fraternal heart the appointed confessional for the doubts, and strife, and sorrowful resolves of our existence, no amount of land or water can break the mutual affiliation ; the reciprocation of pity and of trust, the placid memories, the joint courage to bear well the solemn weight of life, which enrich a present love, may consecrate the absent too. ay, distance may even set a human life in truer and more affectionate aspect before us,
THE FAMILY I HEAVE A D EARTH. 493 by stripping off its trivialities, and bringing out its essential features, and urging our thought to conceive
it as a whole from its beginning to its close ; and in the want of any lighter union, we fold ourselves in the ennbrace of the same divine laws, and compassion for the same mortal lot. With the boldness of a true and inspired nature, the apostle Paul gives an immeasurable extension to this thought; and speaks with incidental ease, of ' one family,'' distributed between heaven and earth. There is, it seems, a domesticity that cannot be absorded by the interval between two spheres of being; — a love that cannot be lost amid the immensity, but finds the surest track across the void; — a home-affinity that penetrates the skies, and enters as the morning or the evening guest. And it is Jesus of azareth who has effected this ; — has entered under the same household name, and formed into the same class, the dwellers above and those beneath. Spirits there, and spirits here, are gathered by him into one group; and where before was saddest exile, he has made a blest fraternity. Let us observe in what instances, and by what means, the spirit of Christ draws into one circle the members of some human society, separated else by hopeless distance. Members of the same home cannot dwell together, without either the memory or the expectation of some mutual and mortal farewell. Families are forever forming, forever breaking up ; and every stroke of the pendulum carries the parting agony through fifty homes. There is no one of mature affections from whose arms some blessing of the heart, — parent, sister, child, — has not died away, and slipped, not as once into extinction, but (chief thanks to 42
494 THE FAMILY I HEAVE A D EARTH.
Messiah's name) into eternity. All we who dwell in this visible scene can think of kindred souls that have vanished from us into the invisible. These, in the first place, does Jesus keep dwelling near our hearts; making still one family of those in heaven and those on earth. This he would do, if by no other means, by the prospect he has opened, of actual restoration. Hopeless grief for the dead, in being passionate, is tempted to be faithless too ; for, it has no remedy but in suffering remembrance to fade away, and employing the gaudy colors of the present to paint over the secred shadows of the past. ^' On the other hand, the most distant promise of a renewed embrace is sufficient to keep alive an unforgetful love. Come where and when it may, after years or ages, in the nearest or furthest regions of God's universe, it passes across our minds the vision of re-union ; it opens a niche in the crypt of the affections, where the images of household memory may stand, and gaze with placid look at the homage of our sorrow^, till they light up again with life, and fall into our arms once more. It matters little at what point in the perspective of the future the separation enforced by death is thought to cease, j Faith and Love are careless time-keepers; they have a wide and liberal eye for distance and duration; and while they can whisper to each other the words ' Meet again,' they can watch and toil with wondrous patience, — with spirit fresh and true, and, amid its most grievous loneliness, unbereft of one good sympathy. And since the grave can bury no affections now, but only the mortal and familiar shape of their object; death has changed its whole aspect and relation to us ; and we may regard it, not
THE FAMILY I HEAVE A D EARTH. 495
with passionate hate, but with quiet reverence. It is a divine message from above, not an invasion from the abyss beneath ; not the fiendish hand of darkness thrust up to clutch our gladness enviously away, but a rainbow gleam that descends through tears, without which we should not know the various beauties that are woven into the pure light of life. Once let the Christian promise be taken to the heart; and as we walk through the solemn forest of our existence, every leaf of love that falls, while it proclaims the winter near, lets in another patch of God's sunshine, to paint the glade beneath our feet, and give ' a glory to the grass.' /Tell me that I shall stand face to face with the sainted dead; and, whenever it may be, shall I not desire to be ready, and to meet them with clear eye and spirit unabasiied ? Shall I not feel, that to forget them were the mark of a nature base and infidel ? — that under whatever pleasant shelter I may rest, and over whatever wastes I may wander as a wayfarer in life, I must bear their image next my heart; — like the exile of old, flying with his household gods hidden in his mantle's secret folds? That the Gospel leaves undetermined the period and place of restoration ; — that we call it 'hereafter,' and know not when it is; that we call it 'heaven,' and know not where it is; — detracts nothing from its power to unite into one family the living and the departed./ It is the ofiice of pure religious meditation to thin away the partitions of time till they vanish, and cast a zone around space, and enclose it all within the mind; to feel that whatever is certain must be soon, and whatever is real must be near. at hand. And hence, it is the characteristic of Christianity to be indifferent as to the time and locality of
496 THE FAMILY I HEAVE A D EAKTH. the events in which it excites our faith. Content
with scattering great and transforming ideas, it allows every kind of misplacement in these accidental relations ; for, if true portions of the invisible are given to our belief, what matters the disposition into which our thoughts may throw them ? Early or late, near or far, are alike in the eye of God, and may well be left open to mutable interpretation from the wants and affections of men. Jesus himself spake much, before his crucifixion, of his re-union with his disciples. It was his favorite topic throughout that parting night; — the subject, now of promise, now of prayer; — the vision from which in that hour of anguish, he could never, for many moments, bear to part. He leaves the impression that it would be very speedy ; and so thought the apostles ever after. And as to place, his expressions fluctuate somewhat between here and there; though his hearers thenceforth looked, and looked in vain, for him to come back to be with them. But of what concern was this? For, where they not ready to meet him, be it where it might? Did not that hope keep alive within their hearts the divine and gracious image of their Lord, and, at the end of forty years of various toil, still evoke it, beaming and breathing as though it were of yesterday? Worlds above, and worlds below ; — mansions are they all of the great Father's house ; and the disciples' greeting would be equally blessed, whether the immortal Galilean descended to the embrace on this vestibule of finite things; or summoned them rather across its thresholds into the Presence-chamber of the Infinite. And no less indifferent to our affections are the localities beyond the grave. Having faith that the lost will assuredly
THE FAMILY I HEAVE A D EARTH. 497 be found, our souls detain them lovingly in the domestic circle still, and own one family in heaven and
on earth. We may cease to ask, in which of the provinces of God may be the city of the dead ; a guide will be sent, when we are called to go. Such and so much encouragement would Christianity give to the faithful conservation of all true affections, if it only assured us of some distant and undefinable restoration. But it appears to me to assure us of much more than this; to discountenance the idea of any even the most temporary, extinction of life in the grave ; and to sanction our faith in the absolute immortality of the mind. Rightly understood, it teaches not only that the departed will live, but that they do live, and indeed have never died, but simply vanished and passed away. It opens to our view the diviner sphere of Christ's ascension, wherever it may be, not as a celestial solitude, where he spends the centuries alone; but as the ever-peopling home of men and nations, w^here predecessors waited to give him welcome, and disciples go to call him blessed. It is a great thing, thus totally to abolish the idea of any annihilation, however momentary, in death, and to reduce it to simple separation. For, it is a perilous and even fatal concession to the power of the grave, to admit that it holds anything in non-existence, and absolutely cancels souls ; swallowing up every trace of their identity, and necessitating the creation of another, though corresponding, series. Once let an object of deep love drop into that abyss and sink in its privative darkness, and how shall I recover it again? Faith stands trembling on the awful brink, and with vain cries and broken supplications owns herself unequal to the task ; for between being and no 42*
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being-, who can fathom the infinite depth? The verycreature that has really fallen through it, scarcely can Omnipotence bring back ; though it produce another like in every feature, giving us the phantasm and not the essence. But neither to God's power nor to our faith, does death present any serious perplexity, if it be only the migration of a spirit that does not cease to live. Thus regarded, it interposes nothing but physical distance between us and the objects of our aftectionate remembrance. T While we poor wayfarers still toil, with hot and bleeding feet, along the highway and the dust of life, our companions have but mounted the divergent path, to explore the more sacred streams, and visit the diviner vales, and wander amid the everlasting Alps, of God's upper province of creation. \ The memorial which our hand affectionately raised when they departed, is no monument to tell what once had been and is no more ; it is no symbol of hopeless loss ; but the landmark from which we measure off the miles of our solitary way, and reckon the definite though unknown, remnant of our pilgrimage ; and as the retrospect is lengthened out, the prospective loneliness is shortening to its close. And so we keep up the courage of our hearts, and refresh ourselves with the memories of love, and travel forward in the ways of duty with less weary step, feeling ever for the hand of God, and listening for the domestic voices of the immortals whose happy welcome waits us.^' Death, in short, under the Christian aspect, is but God's method of colonization ; the transition from this mother-country of our race to the fairer and newer world of our emigration. What though no other passage thither is permitted to all the living, and by neither eye nor ear we can
THE FAMILY I HEAVE A D EAETH. 499
discover any trace of that unknown receptacle of vivid and more glorious life ? So might the dwellers in any other sphere make complaint respecting our poor world. Intensely as it burns with life, dizzy as our thought becomes with the din of its eager passions, and the cries of its many woes, yet from the nearest station that God's universe affords, — nay, at a few miles beyond its own confines, — all its stormy force, its crowded cities, the breathless hurry and ferment of its nations, — the whole apparition and chorus of humanity, is still and motionless as death ; gathered all and lost within the circumference of a dark or illumined disk. And silent as those midnight heavens appear, well may there be, among their points of light, some one that thrills with the glow of our lost and immortal generations ; busy with the fleet movements, and happy energies, of existence more vivid than our own ; where as we approach, we might catch the awful voices of the mighty dead, and the sweeter tones, lately heard in the last pain and sorrow, of our own departed ones. But it is not merely the members of the same literal home that Christ unites in one, whether in earth or heaven. He makes the good of every age into a glorious family of the children of God ; and inspires them with a fellow-feeling, whatever the department of service which they fill. Disci pleship to Christ is not like the partisanship of the schools, — an exclusive devotion to partial truth, an exaggeration of some single phase of human life. Keeping us ever in the mental presence of the divinest wisdom and in veneration of a perfect goodness, it accustoms us to the aspect of every grace that can adorn and consecrate our nature ; trains our percep-
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tions instantly to recognize its influence or to feel its want. It looks with an eye of full and clear affection over the wide circle of human excellence. Had we not been the followers of One, whose thoughts were often deep and mystic, showing how simplicity touches upon wonder, and wonder elevates simplicity ; w^e might have overlooked the high problems of our life, and held in light esteem the souls agitated by their grandeur, perhaps lost in their profundity. Had we not sat at the feet of One, before whose gentle tones and patient looks the shrinking child and repentant woman might feel it a safe and healing thing to stand, We might have despised that faith of love which in being feminine, does not cease to be manly, and have allowed no recess of honor in our hearts to the apostles of meekness and mercy. Had we not heard from a Master's lips, the blighting severities before which Pharisees and hypocrites flinched and stood aghast, we might have softened unworthily the austere claims of truth and justice, have lost the healthy horror at sin, and refused our thanksgiving to the patriots and prophets, whose flashing zeal has purified the atmosphere of this world. And were it not for the words so infinitely graceful, and prayers of deepest aspiration, that fell from Messiah's lips, the very soul of Christendom would have been steeped in colors far less fair ; we might never have felt how soon the kindred fountains of sanctity and beauty blend together; and have denied to the poet, as the priest of nature, his fit alliance with the priest of faith. But thrown as we are into reverence for no disproportioned and unfinished soul, we cannot contract a catholic sympathy for every noble form assumed by our human-
THE FAMILY I HEAVE A D EAHTH. 501 ity. Philosophy and art, the statesman and the bard,
the reformer and the saint, all take their place before us in the Providential sphere, and in proportion as they are faithful to their trust, draw from us an admiring recognition. We see in them selections from the exhaustless inspiration of the infinite wisdom ; streaks of divine illumination, rushing in through the cloudopenings of our world. o genuine disciple can be sceptical as to the existence, or fastidious as to the acknowledgment, of any true worthiness. We owe it largely to the author of our faith, that we cannot encounter the great and good in the generations of the past, without affectionate curiosity, and even strong friendship. Christ, himself the discerner of the Samaritan's goodness and the alien's faith, has called the noble dead of history to a better life than they had before, even in this world ; their memory is dearer ; their example more productive ; their spirit more profoundly understood. Thus there is a]fraternity formed that disowns the restrictions of place and time ; a Church of Christ that passes the bounds of Christendom ; and though in the general chorus of great souls, disciples only can well apprehend the theme and put in the words, yet the glorious voices of Socrates and Plato, of Alcaeus and Pindar, of Aristides and Scipio, of Antoninus and Boethius, richly mingle as preluding or supporting instruments, filUng the melody, though scarce interpreting the thought. or is this brotherhood confined even by historic bounds ; it spreads beyond this sphere and makes one family in heaven and earth. The very faith that the honored men of old still live, and carry on elsewhere the appointed work of faithful minds, unspeakably deepens our interest in them ; forbids us to sigh
502 THE FAMILY I HEAVE A D EAUTH. after them as irrecoverable images of the past ; enrolls them among our contemporaries ; and from the lights
. of memory transfers them to the glories of hope. If Pascal's * thoughts ' are not half published yet, but are pondering for the secrets of sublimer themes; if Shakspeare's genial eye is withdrawn from the stage of life only that it may read the drama of the universe ; if Paul, having testified for what a Christ he lived, shall yet tell us for what a gain he died ; if Isaiah's harp is not really silent, but may fill us soon with the glow of a diviner fire; — with what solemn heart, what reverential hand, shall we open the temporary page by which, meanwhile, they speak with us from the past! Such hope tends to give us a prompt and large congeniality with them ; to cherish the healthful affections which are domestic in every place and obsolete in no time ; to prepare us for entering any new scene, and joining any new society where goodness, truth and beauty dwell. Even this wide friendship need not entirely close , the circle of our fraternity. Beyond the company of the great and good, a vast and various crowd is scattered round ; no line must be drawn which they are forbid to pass ; some span of sympathy must embrace them too. o proud mysteries, no secret initiation, guard the entrance to the Christian brotherhood ; even wandering guilt must be sought for and brought home; and penitence that sits upon the steps must be asked to come within the door. Christ will not remain at the head of the 'whole family,' if its forlorn and outcast members are simply put away in selfish shame, and no gentle care is spent to smooth the pathway of return. He gives to some a present joy in one another ; he denies to none a hope
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for all. The alliance of our hearts is itself founded on the kindred in our being; and is but the actual result of affections not impossible to any. The affinities of nature lie deeper than the sympathies of taste; and should be accepted as guarantees for the equal tenderness of God, amid the alienations of our foolish passions. And whoever will take to heart, how the same human burthen is laid on all, and the divine relief so nobly used by some is for awhile so sadly missed by more ; how much resemblance lurks under every difference between man and man ; how small a space may often separate the decline into grievous failure, and the ascent into glorious success ; must surely feel the yearnings of a fraternal heart towards all who have borne the earthly mission; must look on the apparition and disappearance of generation after generation on this scene with an almost domestic regret and household pity for his kind; consoled and elevated by the trust, that men and nations w^ho have performed the parts of shame and sorrow here, are trained to nobler and more natural offices elsewhere.
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