The Christian Professor

John Angell James, 1837


"It is appointed unto all men once to die!" There is no exemption, even for believers, from this decree. They are delivered from the 'sting' of death—but not from its stroke. Still, in one sense, they conquer, like their divine Lord, in being conquered. "If ever Christianity," says Mr. Hall, "appears in its power, it is when it erects its trophies on the TOMB; when it takes up its votaries where the world leaves them, and fills the bosom with immortal hopes in dying moments." Christ triumphed for his saints, by his own death, and he is continually renewing the victory in them, amidst all the sufferings and decay of their own dissolution. This is beautifully illustrated in the subject of the present chapter; in which we are to contemplate the Christian's termination of her profession on earth, and see her finishing her course with joy. I shall not exhibit to my readers an idealistic scene—but lay before them one of those glorious and blissful realities, which are continually occurring in the dying chamber of believers--that border-land which connects the regions of earth and heaven, and where the darkest scenes of the one are frequently irradiated by the reflected glory of the other.

Mrs. P. had been a member of the church under my pastoral oversight about ten years, and was one of many, who never cost her pastor's heart a sigh--until he lost her in death. Lovely in person, gentle and affectionate in her disposition, she added a luster to her consistency as a Christian, by all that usually interests us in the general character. Tried much, and often, in the furnace of affliction, her faith, more precious than gold which perishes, was found unto the praise and honor, and glory of Jesus Christ. At length her last sickness came on in the form of a lingering consumption. It found her the happy wife of an affectionate and devoted husband, and the fond mother of a son of the age of twelve years, and two daughters, one ten, and the other eight. Possessing such ties to life, she was called to submit, amidst trying circumstances--to the stroke of death. Her profession, always like a clear and steady light, now shone forth with a beauty, that made her departure resemble a glorious sunset after a cloudless day. Amidst the alternations usually produced by the flattering illusions of her disorder, she was never elated by hope, nor depressed by fear—but smiled on her physician, whether he spoke of recovery--or death. However languishing with weakness, or racked by pain, or harassed by coughing, she was instantly roused and made happy by one word, either of 'death' or 'Christ'. Such was the charm of these themes, that I have frequently seen her countenance change in a moment, by their potency, from an expression of great suffering to a smile that looked like a ray of the excellent glory, falling on her previously dim and languid eye. Instead, however, of speaking of her, or attempting to describe her, I will let her speak for herself. As I was about to leave home for a few days, and supposing that her end was near, I requested her husband to take notes of any remarks that might drop from her lips, in order that I might be in possession of her last testimony to the truths of the gospel, and the power of religion. The following diary, extending only through ten days, is but a specimen of what occurred almost uninterruptedly for many months.

"Tell Mr. James," she said one day, "that the fear and sting of death are both taken away—the fear, because Christ died for sinners—the sting, because he has fulfilled and magnified the law." And in reply to a remark that death was hard work, "No," she said, "sweet death! which opens heaven--and shuts out earth!"

AUGUST 4. This morning she awoke exceedingly happy, and said, "What a mercy it is to have a Father in heaven. I wake every morning more happy, with more love to God, and more deadness to the world. O, my happy midnight hours! The things I most dreaded, I find most mercy in. I cannot say much—but I wish, when I can say a few words only, to utter the praises of that God who is so good to me."

At another time she said. "My bliss is too great to be endured on earth, and it's too pure for it. Oh! seek God earnestly with all the heart, and then he will comfort you on a death-bed, in the same way he now comforts me. Confess to him all your sins, make no reserve, and remember not to put off the confession of little sins, for they will only harden the heart, and delay will make the confession more difficult at last."

AUGUST 6. "I have been unspeakably happy," she said, "tonight. Oh! seek God with all your heart; seek him while he may be found, call upon him while he is near." On having her pillows adjusted and made easy, her uplifted hands and eyes spoke more than words could do, her feelings of gratitude and thankfulness; "How can I sufficiently honor and adore God, for all his mercies towards me. I feel my heart almost ready to burst, and my whole soul swallowed up in gratitude and love to him! Surely, surely, heaven is begun below!"

Sunday morning, AUGUST 7. She observed, "Satan has been tempting me in the night, by a sense of past sins—but I have been enabled to beat him off, by praying for faith, and looking steadily at the cross. This life is as Paul describes it, a constant fight; I have found it to be so—but the idea that life is so near a close, is to me exquisite. You will (addressing me) find it so yourself—but watch and pray, and you will ultimately triumph. Sin is mixed with everything here, and remember, whatever comes between the soul and God, as a cloud to dim the luster of his glory, is sin. I was much struck with this idea about eighteen years ago, in attending the theater, at the particular request of a friend, for I found when I retired to bed, I could not pray, which convinced me of the sinfulness of the theater, and I never went again."

This morning she joined the whole family in singing, "When I can read my title clear," etc. She did so in a peculiarly animated manner—but with so trembling and feeble a voice, that it was pleasure mixed with pain, and the circumstance will never be forgotten.

During the day, such was her patience and resignation, that in allusion to her sufferings, she said, "I think I could bear a little more, if God thought fit to lay it upon me," and looking upon her poor skeleton fingers, added, "I like to see them," and then with an apparent smile of triumph said, "You know you cannot keep me here much longer, I shall soon be gone."

AUGUST 8. This last night has been to her a sleepless, restless one; she appears almost worn out, and to be much engaged in prayer, for waiting patience—she said, "what an unspeakable mercy it is, that I've not a doubt or a fear! but pray for me, that I may so continue to the end, for many a good Christian is permitted to be much harassed by the enemy at the last; I have been much distressed tonight by Satan. I found I could not pray—but the passage afterwards came to my mind, 'there is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus,' and this comforted me."

TUESDAY. A few days ago she sent a message to a friend, that she would send him "Mr. James' Anxious Inquirer," with her dying request that he would not only read it attentively—but with prayer, and if he did, she was sure it would conduct him in a safer and surer way to happiness, than the one he was now going. Today she sent the book, and how much was she rejoiced at hearing that he had become so impatient for it, as to send to town to buy one, and was then engaged in reading it; may her prayer that it may be blessed to his conversion, be answered.

WEDNESDAY. Today she is so exceedingly feeble, that I can scarcely hear her speak; but with difficulty I caught the following words—"What a mercy it is that the work is finished, and that when in health I sought God with all my heart, in his own appointed way; I cannot talk today, I feel so ill; but all is sweet peace within—I die, resting simply on the righteousness of Christ." In the evening she said, "My God, my Bible, and my Savior, are increasing sources of happiness, to which I can turn at any moment, without disappointment, and I find them more solid as other things fade away."

THURSDAY. In reply to the words "God bless you," I addressed her this morning, she said, "Ah, God does indeed bless me with the choicest of his blessings; he supplies all my necessary needs, and
"Whatever else I think I want,
  'tis right to be denied."

This afternoon she has fatigued and weakened herself by again talking for a long time to Mrs. — as to her soul's concern. Mrs. — at one time made a great profession of religion, and was apparently before my poor wife in the Christian race—but the world has laid fast hold upon her, and she has backslidden. My dear wife is much concerned about her, and considers she is not a lost character, as she appears not only to be aware of—but to feel her sad state, and is an unhappy woman—and augurs much from what she has said to her during the two interviews. Mr. — received his present of the book, she said, with much pleasure, and was affected with the idea that there was one in the world who cared for his soul, and intimated his wish, if there was no impropriety, to see my wife, to which she assented. If he comes, may God strengthen her for the interview, for she is determined, by the help of God, to be plain and faithful, and say much to him.

SATURDAY. Very ill today and yesterday; she suffers much from great difficulty in breathing, and spasms in the chest. When a little relieved, she said—"Oh, what a mercy it is to feel patience and perfect resignation. I can say from my heart, Lord, your time, your will, your way."

Sunday morning, AUGUST 14. Her prayers for my spiritual good, accompanied with her sincere thanks for what she termed my great kindness and affection to her as a husband, were very affecting; "Love and serve God," she said, "with all your heart, soul, and strength, and let this be a fixed and settled principle in all the concerns of life." In the midst of her sufferings, and they were very severe, she said—"I love God more than ever." In the afternoon, she said—"I could not have thought that anyone could have suffered so much, and yet live; and if God inflicts such sufferings upon his own children, what must the pains of hell be to the wicked? O sin! sin! Remember all sorrow and suffering are the fruits and effects of sin. I cannot think what the wicked do on a death-bed, when the horrors of the mind are added to the pains of the body."

SUNDAY NIGHT. Her sufferings increased, and she was at a loss to reconcile the sufferings of God's people with her belief in his great kindness and regard towards them; and it was apparent that though she had so often said that she had no doubts, no fears, no anxieties, yet that a dark cloud was coming over the mind. "This is indeed," she said, "the hour and power of darkness; it is horrible."

Mr. — called on Monday morning to talk and pray with her. His visit much consoled her, and in an hour or two after, her spirit seemed to emerge from the darkness which had for so many hours hung over her, and all was bright sunshine again. She then said—"All is sweet peace again—solid peace. I am as certain of heaven as if I were already there—not that I have merited heaven—no—I have no works, no worthiness.

'Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to the cross I cling.'"

TUESDAY. The words of the Psalmist—"You have brought me up out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock," etc., were peculiarly expressive of her state and feelings now.

Perhaps nothing need be added to this; I will, however, give the substance of only one or two conversations I had with her during the last few days of her mortal conflict. On one occasion she said—"I have lain awake night after night, examining the foundation of my hope—but I cannot find a single flaw. I depend entirely upon the sacrifice of Christ for acceptance with God, and not at all upon my own works. I have not a doubt or a fear. I have had my seasons of spiritual distress—but have been enabled by God's Spirit to be faithful."

Speaking of her children, who had been for some time removed from home, she said—"When first I saw them after their return, I felt a pang at the thought of leaving them; but I prayed for faith, and was enabled instantly to give up, both them and my husband."

At another time, she exclaimed—"O that all the world knew what I enjoy, they would not then neglect religion. I now feel the advantage of a remark I met with some time since in an old author—'It is well to lay up a good stock of prayers for a dying hour.' By which she meant, as the author did, that through her whole profession, she had been much engaged in prayer to God for his comfortable presence and gracious support, in her dying hour. She then adverted to the answer of her prayers which she was receiving, and said—"This state of mind is not natural to me. I used to be much afraid of dying, and this led me to be much in prayer; and now see how God is granting my request."

About the time of this interview of my own, a friend called upon her, who, upon hearing her talk beyond her strength, gently admonished her to spare herself. "Oh, it matters not," she replied, "I believe I shall die tonight, and it does not signify; I wanted to pray for my minister when he was last here—but had not courage." And then, lifting up her eyes to heaven, poured forth a most fervent and appropriate prayer both for him and his wife.

At a subsequent visit, finding her, beyond expectation, alive, I said, "What, still in the flesh?" and knowing the danger of her becoming impatient to be gone, I asked her if she was willing to wait in her suffering state, any time that God might see fit to detain her on earth? "Quite," she replied, "quite willing to wait and suffer any time, for I am sure God will give me grace. I am a wonder to myself. I am a monument of mercy. O, the mercies of God! What a mercy, that the work of salvation is all done! What a blessing to have the soul safe! I have nothing to do but to go. I am quite ready. When my husband reads the Scriptures to me, I now see a glory greater than I ever saw before. I see them in a new light. No other book but the Bible will do now. I cannot bear, sir, (turning to me, she said,) even your books now. Nothing but the pure truth of God will do now. Sometimes it seems as if God had direct communion with my soul."

Then speaking of the generality of professors of all denominations, she said—"O what a difference have I seen in those I have had to do with. They do not live near enough to God—they are too worldly. Tell those of our church, from me, to live closer to God, and to give themselves more up to his service. I love the church of which I am a member. I die in communion with every member of it; but charge them from me, to be less worldly, and to live nearer to God."

She then gave utterance to a lamentation over some acquaintances whom she feared had been living without spiritual religion, and charged me to speak seriously after her decease to one friend in particular, on this subject. After this, followed a strain of exulting hope of the heavenly world—"There I shall see the Apostle Paul, and all the blessed spirits of just men made perfect—and, above all, the Lord Jesus Christ, and be overshadowed with his glory!"

A lady of considerable respectability and intelligence—but holding Unitarian sentiments, who had been exceedingly kind to her, visited her more than once, and was so struck with the scene, that she not only wept abundantly—but took two of her daughters with her to witness it also, and see how peacefully a Christian could die. The mind of the dying saint felt some little fear, lest she should not have courage to bear her testimony on behalf of her divine Lord, or speak with propriety on those truths which then yielded her strong consolation. She prayed earnestly to God for help, and help was granted her, and it was delightful to observe with what modest thankfulness she acknowledged the grace she had obtained to be faithful. Indeed it was one pleasing feature of her dying experience that she was anxious to do good to all around her; and scarcely any came to her dying bed, who did not carry from it some instructive admonition. Among others, her nurse was an object of most tender solicitude, and while anxious for her spiritual welfare, she did not forget her temporal comfort, as the following little incident will prove.

Among the friends who visited her, was one, who is in the habit of distributing garments to the poor, from whom with great diffidence she solicited a flannel gown, that the poor woman, when she herself was in her grave, might be protected from the cold in her night watches in sick chambers that might not be so warm as that in which she had waited upon her. Such a considerateness of the comfort of others, when flesh and heart were failing her, is a beautiful exemplification of the charity that is kind.

Among other things she uttered during the last day or two of her life, she said—"I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith—henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day; and not to me only—but to those also that love his appearing." The words "not to me only—but to those also that love his appearing," seemed to give her peculiar delight. "The nearer I get home, she continued, the clearer I see my Father's house, and the more certain I am I shall be welcome there." On a great increase of bodily pain, she faintly said—"Spirit brighter; suffering very mysterious." Her last words were in reference to her state of mind. "Peace, peace, O sweet peace!" She died with her finger pointing up to heaven.

Behold the dying professor, and receive her testimony to the grace and glory of our Lord Jesus Christ, who, having put his righteousness upon her, and his spirit within her, has called her to join the palm-bearing multitude, in making her confession before the angels of God. "Here is the endurance of the saints, who keep the commandments of God and the faith in Jesus." Then I heard a voice from heaven saying, "Write--Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on." "Yes," says the Spirit, "let them rest from their labors, for their works follow them!" Rev. 14:12, 13.

Thus ends, though not in all cases with the same degree of holy triumph, the profession of the sincere, consistent, and exemplary Christian. How bright a scene! How beautiful and how powerful a testimony to the reality and excellence of true religion! I need not ask, whether infidelity can produce, or ever did produce, anything like it; or whether philosophy ever did so with her enchantments. Socrates, conversing so calmly with his friends on the subject of immortality, just before he drank the hemlock, is a feeble exhibition of moral grandeur, compared with this. O Christianity! this is your triumph and trophy. What a proof is this of an immaterial and undying mind. To see reason in all its power—religion in its sublimest flights—Then! when the heart is fluttering in the conflict of mortality! Then! for the soul to soar, with angel flight, until its expressions are so grand, its conceptions so unearthly, its joys so much above sense, and reason, and even faith, too--that it looks all covered with the cloud of glory, in which it has already, in a measure, entered—can this be the mere modification of flesh and blood? Oh, no! it is mind triumphing over the weakness of matter. It is the original matter from which the poet has taken his beautiful copy—

The holy triumphs of my soul,
Shall death itself outbrave;
Leave dull mortality behind,
And fly beyond the grave.

And what was it that this immaterial, imperishable mind was then intent upon? On what was the eye of the soul fixed, and to what boundless object were its aspirations rising? Earth had receded, and carried with it all its kingdoms and their glory. But there was another glory rising to fill its place, in beholding the blaze of which, even husband, children, mother, friends, minister, and church were all lost sight of. She saw, as with a new sense, granted to dying saints—but unknown to living ones, things almost as unutterable as those which Paul witnessed in the third heavens; and loosening from every terrestrial object, sprung forward to lay hold upon immortality.

I grant that it is not the privilege of all the children of God, to enjoy so large a share of heaven upon earth as did this dear saint, for it is an undoubted fact, that even some of the most eminent servants of God have been far less favored in their dying hour than she was. I could mention names of the most distinguished divines of modern times, whose passage through the dark valley was not irradiated with these bright corruscations of the heavenly glory. This fact has not been unnoticed by others. Can we account for it? No doubt, in some cases, the nature of their dying illness may have had an influence, as certain disorders predispose more powerfully to the depression of the animal spirits than others. Mr. Fuller, during his last illness, labored under this to a considerable extent, and the celebrated Mr. Scott, the author of the Commentary, did the same; but it was, in each of these cases, the effect of disease. "I never recollect," said the former, "to have had such depression of animal spirits, accompanied with such calmness of mind." "I would be glad," he said, "to be favored with some lively hopes, before I depart hence." "My hope is such, however, that I am not afraid to plunge into eternity."

I have no doubt, that both in living saints, and in dying ones too, disease has much to do in preventing what is usually denominated comfort; but surely though disease may, in some cases, prevent comfort, it cannot, in a sane mind, produce it. The experience recorded in this chapter, is unquestionably the in-working of the mighty power of God. That the humbler saints should be thus favored, while useful preachers, and great theologians, who have served God in their own, and will continue to serve him by their works, in all future generations, should be denied those bright manifestations of God's presence in death, is an arrangement that must have some ends, and teach some lessons in the divine administration.

Does it not show the sovereignty of God, in the bestowment of his favors? Does it not hide pride from man, by proving that it is not even distinction in the church, which can insure the brightest light of God's countenance? Does it not tend to keep humble, living Christians, and ministers, and authors of eminence, by reminding them, that people never heard of beyond a narrow circle, may have a more glorious close of their profession than even they? Does it not prove that God holds himself no man's debtor, for what he has done? Does it not manifest how inadequate all we do for Christ is to comfort us in a dying hour, and that theological giants, as well as the least child in God's family, can derive no comfort then—but from a simple dependence on Jesus? Does it not illustrate the power of Christ, in raising such meek and humble saints, such seemingly weak believers, into the spiritual prowess of the greatest conquerors of death? Does it not distribute more widely the honor of doing something for God, and of bringing glory to Christ; so that while some shall do much by their living labors, others shall do it by their dying experience? Does it not encourage the less public professors, who are the greatest in number, to look forward with lively hope and joyful anticipations to the close of life? Such lessons as these, are of great consequence in the school of Christ, and we cannot wonder that God should take such methods in teaching them.

Professors! the close of your profession will come, and the nature of that close should be a matter of solicitude to you. Whether your sun shall set in clouds or in brightness, ought not to be a subject of absolute indifference. True it is, that your chief concern should be, to maintain a consistent profession while you live; for this is the most likely way to make a happy one when you die; but still, when we consider how much it tends to edify the church, to hear of the lively faith and hope of its dying members, and how much it tends also to awaken and impress careless sinners--it ought to be a matter of desire and prayer, that we might finish our course with joy, and glorify God in death.

A holy life, and a happy death, and both of them for the honor of Christ, the credit of religion, and the good of immortal souls, should be the object of every Christian's ambition. These two act upon each other; he who would be happy in death, should be holy in life; and did we keep the death-bed scene in view, it would be one motive, and that not a weak one, to a life of eminent godliness. Death is a scene in which we can be found but once. We can glorify God through all time, and through all eternity, by ten thousand acts, ten thousand times repeated—but we can honor him but once, in dying; how much we ought to be concerned then, to do that well, and realize the saying—

"His God sustained him in his dying hour,
His dying hour brought glory to his God."

For this purpose, we should, like the Apostle, die daily. The whole of life should be one continued exercise and discipline for death. All days should be spent with reference to the last, and all objects looked at in connection with the sepulcher. We should never forget "to lay up a stock of prayers for a death-bed."

The prospect of death should not distress us. The fear that has torment, the dread that brings us into bondage, should be subdued by a distinct exercise of faith, in reference to this solemn event. Faith should have exercises, appropriate to every situation in which we can be found; we should have faith for life; faith for death; faith for eternity. Not only faith in a dying hour, when it is present—but faith for it, when it is yet future. All evils look greatest at a distance, not excepting death itself. There is scarcely one fact more borne out by the experience of the church, than that the fear of death diminishes in the heart of God's people, the nearer they approach the dark valley; for, in truth, the nearer they draw to that scene of gloom, the closer do they come to the heavenly glory, the light of which there breaks on the night of the tomb. Multitudes who, during their lives, could never think of dying—but with some painful solicitude, have been astonished to find how their fears all vanished, and with what peaceful hope they could lie down and expire.

Reasons may be assigned for this, which are quite sufficient to account for the encouraging fact. In those solemn circumstances, the attention, hitherto divided between earth and heaven, is more concentrated, yes, is exclusively fixed on the latter. Like a pilgrim going to the Holy City, who has arrived at its very suburbs, and loses sight of, and interest in, the things that had attracted his notice on the road, and sees only the towers, and walls, and domes of the object of his long and weary journey--so the departing saint, now sees only the things that are heavenly, and is occupied in the contemplation of the exceeding great and eternal weight of glory.

His dependence upon God's mercy in Christ Jesus, is now more simple and more firm, in the near prospect of standing in the immediate presence of a Holy God. The last remains of pride, self-righteousness, and vain glory, die within him; his fancied excellences vanish; his sins appear in their true light; and he feels more deeply and more delightfully that Christ is all in all. With a grasp of faith, new in its power, though not in its kind, he lays hold on the cross, and finds that it can sustain him even when sinking in death. His assurance is then more confident. He finds the necessity of coming to a conclusion about his state. The question must be settled. He cannot now have doubts and fears—but must have the point cleared up, whether he is a child of God, an heir of glory, or not; and it is cleared up. He knows and feels that he depends on Christ, and nothing else. He is peaceful in the billows of Jordan; unfrightened amidst the shadows of the dark valley; dead in heart to the world, before he is dead in body; and hopeful in the prospect of eternity. All this is evidence to him of personal religion! He is a Christian. Blessed conclusion!

And it blesses him. Assurance, which he has sought through life, comes in death. If it was not a sun to shine upon his path through the world, it is the lamp to cheer him along the dark avenue of the grave. He can die in peace, for he now knows in whom he has believed.

In addition to all this, God is especially near his dying saints, and loves then to grant them the strongest consolations of his Spirit. It seems to be his design and pleasure, to make grace most triumphant amidst the weakness and decays of nature, and to prove that the blessedness of an immortal soul arises from himself, since he makes it happy by his presence, when everything else conspires to make it miserable. We can imagine that the object most interesting to the heart of infinite love is the dying martyr, and next to him, the dying Christian. It is the last time until the resurrection morning, in which God permits the world to look upon his children; and then, when he is taking them away, he presents them with the smile of peace upon lips.

He sometimes seems to make it a point to meet them in the dark valley, and reserves his strongest cordials for their expiring moments. It is said of those that believe in Jesus, that they shall not see death. The grim monster is in the gloomy passage—but Christ interposing between him and the dying believer; the Christian looking only at the Savior, passes by with out noticing the terrors of the last enemy. God has promised not to forsake his people, even amidst the troubles of life—but he compasses them with his presence, amidst the sorrows of death.

How rarely do we hear of a consistent Christian dying in a disconsolate state. That some who have been lukewarm and irregular, who have not been watchful and diligent, are left to disquietude and perturbation in that season, when it is most desirable there should be peace, is very true. God chastises the inconsistencies of their lives, in the season of their death. Purgatory is a mere Popish delusion—but the disciplinary process of a long and cheerless approach to the tomb, is sometimes employed by Sovereign Mercy, to fit the backslider in heart, for the realms of glory. Seldom, however, is the consistent professor left to darkness and distress in his last moments; on the contrary, he usually finds his dying chamber to be the vestibule of heaven, where the anthems of the Redeemed are heard within, inviting him to the work of everlasting praise.

Let the consistent professor, therefore, go cheerfully forward to his latter end. Let him cast away the fearful apprehensions of a dying hour. Not that all kinds and degrees of fear can be totally suppressed. Death is an solemn event—and to regard it with careless indifference is the mark of a hardened heart, and not of a renewed one. Some good people have distressed their minds, and written bitter things against themselves, because they could not altogether rise above the fear of death. But this is needless self-torment. There is an apprehensiveness of this great change, which is almost inseparable from humanity, and indeed is one of the safeguards of life, and which is greatly increased, in some cases, by physical temperament. This may co-exist with sincere, and even with eminent piety. Mr. Jay, I remember, illustrates the subject thus—A man maybe in America, while his wife and family are in this country. He may wish to be with them, for his heart is there—but still he may dread to cross the Atlantic ocean which lies between himself and them. So a Christian's heart may be in heaven, yet he may dread to pass through death, though it leads to glory.

Nothing tends more to subdue this natural fear of the last enemy, than the habitual contemplation of the heavenly state, and the exercise of faith in Jesus Christ, for the dying hour. As a dark object when seen between two resplendent ones, loses its gloomy aspect, and becomes itself almost bright; so death, when viewed between the cross of Christ, and the crown of glory, receives a luster by reflection, which conceals, if it does not altogether remove, its horrors. Therefore let us go onto meet the last enemy with the joint language of both Testaments upon our lips. "Yes, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for you are with me—your rod and your staff comfort me." "I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed to him." "O death, where is your sting! O grave, where is your victory? The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."

Who can lift up the veil and see the Christian in his eternal state? If in an earlier part of this volume, when considering the dangers of self-deception we exclaimed, with shuddering horror, "A professor in hell!" with what transporting delight may we exclaim, A professor in heaven! But who can follow him into the unapproachable light, the astonishing splendor of the divine presence? Mortality is swallowed up into life; humanity is absorbed into glory.

There is one thing, among many others, which deserves a momentary attention; it is the interview of sincere, consistent, and persevering professor, with "the Lord who bought him." Of that scene, however, little can be imagined but what is suggested, by the words which his Lord will then say to him—"Well done, good and faithful servant; enter into the joy of your Lord. You have taken up my name, and have not dishonored it; entered my church, and not defiled it; professed my religion, and not disparaged it; borne my cross, and not added to its ignominy, by inconsistency of conduct. Well done! well done!"

O rapturous expression! How joyful a sound does such a testimony carry from the mouth of Christ! O what can be so grateful and reviving to the heart of a good man, as to have the Lord of life and glory say to him, well done? What a reward for all the labors, and self-denial, and sufferings of a life of piety, to hear God say—"I am well pleased with you!" But this is not all; for he will add—"Enter into the joy of your Lord." "You have labored well in your profession; that is all over forever, and now enter upon your rest and your reward—you have denied yourself—but not me, and now I confess you as my faithful follower before my Father and his holy angels; you have had fellowship with me in my sufferings, and nothing now remains for me and you—but joy unspeakable and full of glory! Enter into the joy of your Lord."

This is the sum of all felicity. But who shall explain it? What does it mean? The joy of which Christ is the object? a felicity to be derived from being with him, and beholding his glory? Or the joy of which he is the author; which he creates around us and within us? Or the joy of which he is the possessor? as though he had said "enter into that joy that is now to be common both to me and you, and of which you shall partake with me." It is all these united. Into this joy the faithful professor will be welcomed and introduced by Christ himself. It shall not so much enter into him, as he into it; he is not so much to possess it as to be possessed by it; it is the atmosphere which is to surround him, the light which is to shine all over him, the very space which is to absorb him. Into this he is to enter—but never to depart from it. The last thing we hear of him is, that he is gone into joy!