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Colossi A S iii. 17. WhaUoever ye do in trord or deedf do all in the name of the Lord JeauSf giving thanks to God and the Father by kirn, Tms is one of those passages in the Scripture which are quite familiar to the ears of us all ; which we receive as a good and holy command, but which, I think, we seldom follow up into its real meaning, or rather into that multitude of lessons for our daily life which lie wrapped up as it were within it. One great business of Christian preaching, as it seems to me, — of preaching, I mean, as a part of our Church service, in distinction from the prayers and psalms, and the reading of the Scriptures, — is to form the link between human things and divine : to form a bridge, so to speak, by which tlie truths taught and the feelings expressed in the other parts of the service may be joined on to the common business and common language of life, and not allowed to remain apart and unapplied ; respected, indeed, but powerless. And this same thought is contained in the words of the text. The Apostle had been speaking of acts of direct religion. ' Let the word of Christ,' he says, * dwell in you richly in all wisdom ; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs ; singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.'
WILLS. 237 And then he proceeds to speak of all the various acts of human life which are not in themselves acts of religion : * Whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus.* That is, let all your actions and all your words be done and spoken as in Christ's presence,
and as done and spoken by His servants and His redeemed. Many actions there are of our daily life which it would be curious to paint in what I may call their dead state and their living : first, I mean, describing any given action, — the choice of a profession or calling, the purchasing or selling of property, the contracting marriage^ the engaging in a law suit, or any other of our more serious acts, — as done under the influence of our common and worldly feelings only ; and then describing the very same things as done in a Christian spirit, and with Christian resolutions and feelings ; or, in other words, as done in the name of the Lord Jesus. But there is one act which I would now wish to consider in this double form ; an act which ought, it would seem, to be all but an act of direct religion ; and yet which is many times done under the influence of worse motives than almost any other of a man's life ; the act, I mean, of making a Will. * A testament or will,' says the Epistle to the Hebrews, ^ is of force after men are dead.' Therefore I said that it might seem to be properly all but an act of direct religion. For the very notion of our last will and testament implies the notion of oui death ; what we write is absolutely written only for that time when we shall be no more in the land of the living. There is something exceedingly solemn in writing words which shall not be read till we can write and read no more ; in sealing a paper which shall not be opened till we are laid in our graves.' And thus oue would think that the bare thought of making our Will, the mere consciousness of writing and sealing
238 WILLS. an instrument so full of death, if I may so speak, in every linfe, ought in itself to be the most impressive of sennons.
There is another thing in the act of writing a Will, not nearly so obvious as what I have just noticed ; not known perhaps, certainly not considered, by all of us ; but yet which deserves our notice. We are so accustomed to hear and talk of men's Wills, that we regard them as matters of course ; as what always has been and must be. Yet it is a great power to be able to act when we are dead ; to dispose at our pleasure to this person or to that, on such or such conditions, of lands, money, goods, over which we can exercise no control, and which we can by no possibility enjoy. And thus history and law tell us of a time amongst several nations, when Wills were either unknown, or were but a request of the dying man, which might after his death be either granted or refused. A state of things is on record, when the succession to all property was fixed by a general law, and a man's power over his own ended when, to speak properly, it was liis own no longer. And in one sense of the word, this state of things was the natural one ; natural, according to that perverted meaning of the term, by which we lose sight of our own proper nature, and speak of that nature onlv which we have in common with the brutes. For in so far as we are creatures who in a few years must cease to be, and when dead, can do nothing and enjoy nothing in this world, — so far is it natural that all our will and all our power should end with us in our grave. But in so far as we have another nature than this, even as far as regards this world, — as we are connected with our fathers, and oiu: children with us, and we can in no manner get rid of the manifold influences of the generations which have gone before us, neitlier can our children by possibility get rid of the influences of our generation ; — so it is most natural and most wise that the past and present and future
WILLS. 239 should be linked to one another, in a chain not to be broken; that in every age the dead should stilly in a manner, be pre-
sent amongst the living ; that their words and actions should still have force, and share with our own in the disposition of us and ours. These considerations are each of them of force, to make us consider the making a Will as one of the most solenm actions of our lives. For the power of making it is given us by society, which entrusts us with what we never could have taken to ourselves, and allows us to extend our life, in a manner, far beyond its natural bounds, in the confidence that so great a privilege shall be exercised in a becoming spirit ; that having a second term of existence given us, we should use it worthily. And again, thinking of what we write in our Will as written for that time when we shall be actually abiding God's judgment, with no power whatever to repent of or undo any foolish or wicked thing that we may have said or done, — we shall thus also consider carefully what we are doing, and take heed not to commit sin in such a matter, where, by the very necessity of the case, there shall be no place left for repentance. Yet with all this. Wills, as I have already said, often exhibit the saddest marks of sinful passions ; so that there are cases in which we should think worse of a man from the spirit shown in his last Will, than from anything that he had been known to do or say in the course of his life. This arises no doubt firom the practice, in itself reasonable and good, of making omr Wills when we are in fiill health and strength ; when we have no distinct sense at all of the period for which we are miaking them. And again, the great abuses formerly practised by superstition or by fraud, wh^n the priest beset the dying man, and persuaded him to leave his money to what were called spiritual uses, — which were neither always really spiritual and Christian-
like, nor recommended on just and Christian reasons, — these abuses have left such an impression upon men's minds, that there is often a shyness in the clergy of speaking upon the subject, either personally in their visits to the sick, or publicly in the pulpit. Yet to speak of it in the pulpit, at least, can by no possibility be open to abuse; and it may be something to lay down generally, and when there can be no particular application intended, such rules as a Christian ought to follow in a matter so solemn. First of all it may be right just to observe, that a Will in all its directions and bequests should be free from ex* travagance and folly. There are instances of Wills in which the testator has seemed to indulge some strange fimcy, as if he wished to excite astonishment, or exercise a capricious power even after he is dead. But when society enabled us to live on in a manner after our death, it meant that our reason and principle should so live, and not our folly. And what sense can he entertain of death and judgment, who in the very preparation for both, indulges in some absurdity such as would be ill fitted for the graver moods and better tempers even of our common life ? But as this is not the commonest fault-in Wills, I need not do more than thus briefly alhide to it. A worse feeling, which sometimes appears in a man's Will, is that of resentment or revenge. Tliere is a pleasure felt in remembering old slights, in vexing or disappointing those who may once have offended or neglected us. And with such feelings unrepented of, nay, gloried in, and exercised, so to speak, after death, we appear before God to ask that we may be forgiven. Surely every such Will is no other than a horrible record, written and signed and sealed by his own hand, of a man's eternal condemnation. By it, he being dead yet speaketh, to say that he is indeed dead, body and soul. For what hope
WILLS. 241 can the fondest charity entertain of such a man's repentance, when he tells us himself that up to the very latest minute of his life he did not repent and would not ? But this also, it is to be hoped, is a fault comparatively rare. By far the commonest evil feelings manifested in Wills are covetousness and ambition: the desire of leaving a name, of making a family, of conferring enormous wealth and consequence on ourselves as living in our posterity. Thence the spirit of tying up property for as long a period as we can, that our own power may be the longer felt, and the idol which we worship may not pass away. How often is the peace and mutual love of a family broken by such Wills as these ; when brothers and sisters are put in a wholly wrong position with regard to each other ; one unduly exalted, the rest unduly made dependent I But here, too, the thing which is most plain on the face of such a Will is, that it could not have been an act done in the name of the Lord Jesus. For if there be such sins as covetousness and ambition, and world lymindedness, I know not how they can be more shown than by thus retaining them to the last ; and declaring that riches and worldly rank are things far more precious to us than love for our children individually, or than their cherishing towards one another the natural feelings of brotherly confidence and affection. Another point, harder to touch upon, and on which one cannot give any universal rule, yet requires, I think, to be noticed. There are, I believe, some parts of Europe in which no Will is valid unless it contains some bequest to the poor. This is evaded, as such rules are apt to be, by making the sum so bequeathed to the poor merely nominal. Yet the feeling which dictated the rule was founded on truth ; — that in the last act of his life a man should regard not only justice, but charity ; that he should remember those whom Christ so often and so earnestly has
VOL. VI. B
242 wnxa recommended to our care. And that our Church ghares the feeling may be seen from one of the rubrics in the service of the Visitation of the Sick^ which says that ' the minister should not omit earnestly to move such persons as are of ability to be liberal to the poor.' Certain it is, that bequests for charitable and public purposes are far more lare than they were formerly : in proportion as those Wills of covetousness and ambition have more abounded^ the spirit of charity and of Christ has departed ; and the spirit of pride and selfishness and mammon has come in its place. And certain it is also, that there are some purposes both of public usefulness or ornament^ and also of what is more directly called charity, which in eveiy man's immediate neighbourhood require to be promoted. Such objects, let them be of what particular kind they wiU, deserve surely to be considered. ot, of course, to the real injury or impoverishment of those whose claim upon us is one of blood and nature ; yet greatly in preference to views of aggrandizement for our children, or of giving them more than enough ; which is quite as great an injury to them as giving them less than enough. ow it is tnie that self-deceit, which never forsakes us, would very likely try to persuade us in the several cases that I have been noticing, that our Will was just, or at any rate that we have a right to do as we will with our oWki. But let men consider that although they may deceive themselves, yet they cannot deceive God; that they must be judged, not according to what a hardened and corrupted conscience whispered here, but according to what it will tell them when the time for such deceit is over, and sin appears to them as it is. And as the risk of what they are doing is great, — inasmuch as their Will must outlive all possibility of their repentance, and if it be a sin it
must stand as such for ever, — it were well if they used beforehand the precautions of Christian wisdom. And as
WILLS. 243 there is a god of this world who blinds our eyes, and as there is a deceived conscience which sometimes will not let us see that we have a lie in our right hand, were it not wise to seek that aid and that light which have been given us that we should not walk in darkness, — that we should make our Wills in the first instance, and review them from time to time afterwards, with earnest prayer to God that an act so solemn may be done under the influence of His Spirit, and in the name of the Lord Jesus ? It was once the custom that every Will should begin with the words, * In the name of God ; ' and the testator very commonly stated that he committed his soul to God through Christ, before he proceeded to say a word of his worldly affairs. o doubt the use of these expressions outlived the true sense of their reality: they may be found, it is but too likely, standing in the front of a Will so little Christian-like, that they are no better than blasphemy. But what is our state when we leave off" the very expression of good feelings, because we will keep our real feelings at such utter variance with what is good ? But whether the words, are used or no, certain it is that every Will not conceived in their spirit is an act of sin. To look forward deliberately to what is to happen after our death, without any thought of what death is, and into Whose presence it brings us, cannot but be great ungodliness ; that mind can hold but little communion with God at other times which is not led to think upon Him then. A truly Christian Will, as it is a solemn act and the exercise of a great privilege, so it is full of happy thoughts and of blessing. The best and holiest hmnan
affections are mingled with the thoughts of death and of eternity. What there is of good and precious in this world stands out the brighter when we are steadily observing how much of it is passing away. Together with B2
i44 WILL9. the pLeasure of exerciffiDg for the last time our tender care lor thofle whom Qod has given to us, must rise also our thankfulness to Him for having enabled us to provide for them, and our prayers that He will continue to abide with them when we are gone. or is it unpermitted to the CShristian parent of Christian children to gknce in thought from this, his latest act of communion witii them in this mortal state, to bis first meeting with them again in the kingdom of Christ, when no more care will be needed either for himself or for them, for botii will be joined in everlasting love and blessedness, one with each other in God and in Christ
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