ALL SOULS. BY THOMAS AR OLD, D.D.

Hebrewb xiii. 7. JMio&e faith fciloWf contidering the end of their conversation. It is probably known to many of U8 that, in the Koman Catholic calendar, every day in the year is a Saint's day ; that is, there is no single day with which the name and remembrance of some persons or events connected with our common faith are not associated. And it is known also perhaps to many of us, tliat some Protestant churches . keep no anniversaries at all ; not even those of our Lord's birth, crucifixion, and ascension. The Sunday is their only day set apart for reli^^^ious worship, with the exception of such particular fasts or solemn days as may be appointed by the Church from time to time on particular occasions. Our own Church, as we know, keeps several anniversaries, while it has discontinued the greater number of those formerly observed. Among the rest so discontinued, is that one which used to be kept on this day. ^'esterdav, which was All Saints' Dav, is still observed. But All Saints' Day was followed immediately by what was called All Souls' Day, or the Day of the Dead, — a day which was indeed made to ser\'e to very superstitious purposes, on accoTmt of the fables which were invented about the state of the dead, but which, as soon as those fables are forgotten, is capable of being made a tndy Christian

ALL SOULS. 311

solemnity, no lesp so than the Day of All Saints immediately preceding it, and which our Church still observes.

The notion of All Souls' Day was to keep up the remembrance of those of our Christian brethren who, having finished their course on earth, are kept in peace till the day of the resurrection. Undoubtedly, as I said before, very gross superstitions were mixed up with it, which it would be most unedifying to dwell on even for a moment. Still the state of the Christian dead, both in what we know of it and in what we do not know, is itself a very useful subject of reflection. In the celebration of All Saints' Day, we recall to mind our fellowship with God's servants in respect of their and oiur immortality. The Day of the Dead recalls to us our fellowship with God's servants, in so far as both they and we are mortal. In the former we include not only all Christ's earthly servants, but those also who are in heaven. The Communion of Saints extends to the holy angels themselves, and centres in Christ Himself, their Head and Lord as well as ours. But the Day of the Dead is in a manner of the earth and earthly. The holy angels do not share in this commimion vnth us ; and though Christ Himself died unto sin once, yet He is alive for evermore, and entered already into the most holy place, to prepare an habitation there for us also when He shall come again. The Day of the Dead then is the day of those who are yet in some measure under Death's power, — of oiur departed brethren who are yet so far under it, that they have not entered into their perfect and eternal life, — of ourselves even more, over whose heads Death's dart is still hanging, who have not felt its stroke, but will surely feel it. So far then our departed brethren and we are in the same condition ; — to neither of us is the power of the last enemy as yet quite overcome. But if in this we are

812 ALL SOULS.

alike^ there is another thing in which we are most different. The power of death is not wholly past from o^er them ; but the sting of that power is past for ever. They have done with sin, if they have not yet done ^th death. But of us this cannot be said truly. We have not yet done with sin, and therefore to us, not only the power bat the worst sting of death may be yet remaining. How can we then become like in this great matter to our departed brethren? How can we bring ourselves to feel no more or worse portion of death's power than they now feel ? To this question the words of the text afford the answer: * Consider the end of their conversation, the issue of their earthly life, and imitate their &ith.' In speaking of our departed brethren, I wish the term to be confined to those who have died in Christ's fiutb and fear. We have nothing to do with any others than these. ow of some of these we must gain our knowledge from reading or hearing; of others our own experience may inform us. For among that numl)er of persons whom we once knew on earth and who have now finished their course, there must surely be many of whom we may pronounce at once quite confidently, with much more than the mere hope of charity, that tliey have died in Christ's faith and fear. For, as there must be many of whom we may hope not only charitably, but reasonably, yet of whom we cannot feel that their faith, as it were, is manifest, and goes before to judgment, — so there nuist be many, I trust, of whom we feel that it was manifest ; whom God's Spirit had sealed so visibly that none could mistake its impress. ow consider for a moment the state of any such person whom we have once known, and compare his case with ours. We knew him when he was as we are now ; with the world around him as it is around us ; with temptations besetting him as they are besetting us ; with the same weaknesses of body and mind under which we too are

ALL SOULS. 313

labouring. Consider that to him life was as real, and all its interests as pressing, as they can be this day to us. If he were nearly of our own age, we may well remember many occasions of ordinary employment or amusement or conversation, in which he shared our interest, and in which we no more thought of death in connection with him than with ourselves. So truly and entirely was there a sympathy between us, in respect to what we see and feel now. But to him this * now ' is gone by for ever. To him the world is really nothing. We can see how wise he was not to set his heart upon it, — how short and vanishing a point is the life of faith when compared with the life of glory. Whatever pain he suflFered, whatever common pleasure he enjoyed, we have seen the end of both. It may be that we retain some of his books or of his letters ; his handwriting is before our eyes, the subject of his thoughts in his books, their expression in his writing. He used these things as not abusing them ; and can we not readily carry our minds forward to the moment when the like memorials of us may be in the hands of our friends ; and can we not fancy the infinite wretchedness of our case if even loving friends could only hope, and not feel confidently siure, that neither had we abused them? And where are our departed friends now ? I can answer only by one word, but how much does that word contain 1 I cannot tell in what place they are, or with what degree of happiness or consciousness. I cannot tell if they regard * us still, or if they can pray for us, or wish us any good. But they are in safety, comfortable word to think of, when the danger so escaped is an eternal one ? They are in safety ; they have done with evil for ever. o more sickness, no more pain, no more sorrow for others, and no more fear ; no more sense of private misfortunes or of public. Poverty, strifes, tumults, wars, — whatever images

314 ALL SOULS.

of evil, with more or less of distinctness, haunt us in our mortal condition, — of all these they know nothing any more. But how much more than all this is it to be freed from temptation, and to have ended the work of faith ? We, with all our faults, with all our difficulties in the way of serving God, our eager passions, our base fears, our childish follies, — we, with this veil drawn so thickly over us, and through which faith sometimes can scarcely penetrate, can we conceive ourselves to be as our departed brethren, — passions and fears and follies all swept away together, and the veil lifted up from all things, so that we can see God ? And yet it is true that many whom we have known, who have shared our graver hours and our lighter ones, are now as really in this state of perfect safety as they were a short time since, and as we are still, in danger. It is therefore well said, * Follow their faith, considering the end of their earthly conversation.' It is well said ; for ])y considerin<j^ thoir fnd we may Ik? lK*st encoumged to follow their faith. You will see that when speaking of considering tlieir end, 1 liavc* not dwelt on the actual scene of their deaths, on any particular instances of faith which they may then have exhibited, or any particular parting charges wliich they niJiy then have left to us. The truth is, that the real example is to be sought for in their lives, not in th(^ir deaths. The real solemnity of their relation to us consists, not in tlie gn^ater or less impressiveness of a period of a few hours, but in the abiding fact that they were alive and are dead. Resides it often happens that they whose lives have been the holiest, of whose safety now we may b(» most assured, exliibited nothing remarkable in their last hours, from the peculiar nature of their

disorder. And it is of importance not to encourage that craving for stories of interesting deaths, wliich some feel so strongly. In this respect there seems to me to be a

ALL SOULS. 315

peculiar fitness and value in the manner of the death of Bishop Heber. For all that we know of him is his life and vigorous health ; — there his example speaks to us ; and as his simple devotion to his Master^s service showed itself in his life, in all firuits of power and love and of a sound mind, so it was ordered that neither in his death should he minister to any false or extravagant feeling. We have no record of his faith and hope when his body was sick and his mind enfeebled ; but we have an abundant record of both, while he was daily and cheerfully giving up to his Master's work all the energies of his undecayed body, and all the manifold faculties of his pure and beautiful mind. The mention of this great and good man naturally leads me from those of our departed brethren whom we have om-selves known, to that great multitude whom we can know only from the accounts of others. They are scattered up and down over the whole period of the world's existence ; but yet, so soon as they are taken from this world, they have no more to do with time. All of them stand to us now in one common relation, — all are the dead who have died in the Lord. How refreshing is it to join ourselves in the only permitted way to their communion ? ot by asking or wondering what they may be now, whether they care for us, whether they can do anything for us ; all that we may know concerning them now, is that they are safe and under Christ's care, and that we shall meet them when Christ comes again. But we can join in communion with them by studying what they were.

Often we have their very prayers and secret thoughts preserved to us ; or, if not, we have their actions, which tell clearly enough from what seed so goodly a £ruit was ripened. It is very much to be regretted that we have not more records of the lives of Christ's servants ; and sometimes, too, we may be forgiven the wish that what we

316 ALL S0UL3, have, had been more Bimply told. Still there is a goodly company of God's people on whom vre may look with comfort and thankfulness ; who, amidst all \-arietie9 of time and place, bear the same divine seal that they were God's redeemed; who, though dead, are yet capable of guiding and of Btrengthening us ; who, though unknown to us in this mortal body, shall yet, when we have all put on immortality, be our companions for ever, if we, too, shall to the end of our lives steadily have followed their faich. And now Ihie Day of the Dead ieems to deserve a better, or at least a more cheerful name :— it may be called the Day of the Living. For who are so truly alive no they who have been, and are, and shall be, God's children ; — alive, and truly alive for evermore ; — whether, like our brethren, they have passed through the valley of the shadow of death, or, like us, have yet to pas3 it. But if we must dwell upon thf> word 'dead,' let us think who there are who truly deserve to be called so. ot those of whom I have been now speaking, not our departed brethren, — and I hope and pray, not ourselves. Dead, indeed, we can scarcely he yet ; — as we do not sliare our departed brethren's safety, so neither can we yet share the death of the truly dead. Here we may not, we dare not, dwell upon individual cases: but if we have ever known, — I would rather say, have ever heard or read of, — some who?e fiiith had given no sign of its existence, — then as we pre-

sented to our minds the change that has taken place in our Christian brethren, so for a moment let us fancy the change that has taken place in the really dead. If we have ever known such, alive once, active and healthful, full of powers and opportunities, yet wasting all, — living, alas ! but too livelily in this present life, and sharing in its coocems but too eagerly, — can we bear to think what is their state now ? o, we may not think of it, except to remind us that as they are, we may be ; nay, as they are, we shall be ; and others may talk, and draw examples from us, as we do now from these : life will be over with us for ever, and death for ever will have be^n, unless even now we join ourselves to those holy dead, to those truly living, whom we as on this day commemorate.

1. 68 FREE BOOKS http://www.scribd.com/doc/21800308/Free-Christian-Books

2. ALL WRITI GS http://www.scribd.com/glennpease/documents?page=1000

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful