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sort of way, why I have no objection; and we will drop the subject, since yon wish it. And I hope that in future you will be more careful of what you do and say."
"With God's help I will," said the poor penitent, humbly, wringing the other's hand with energy.
""Well, well; then there's nothing more to be said. Since you ask me to forgive you, as I said before, I'll do it; but you must not expect me to forget—that's a thing impossible."
Poor, sorrowful, repentant Eli Smith! It was not exactly what he had hoped, but he bore it meekly; thanked his neighbour for the half-extorted and unwillingly yielded reconciliation, and went back slowly to his own field.
He was cast down, but not destroyed. Peace sprang up in his soul, and light and warmth beamed in upon it. He would not suffer himself to dwell upon the thought that his neighbour might have been more cordial, might have met his advances half way. But he did think what a blessed thing it is that when the gracious Lord pardons, he pardons freely and fully; and the sins of his people he remembers no more.
It was several hours later in the day, and Smith was still at work in his field. He was happier than he had been for many a day, though not completely happy; for he could not help wishing that the reconciliation had been more perfect, and he was fearing whether the quarrel might not break out afresh. He knew his own weakness, and was afraid of himself. Or, say that it was all over, Eli could not but reflect on the evil consequences which had already attended the sad alienation; and if the alienation were ended, the consequences yet remained.
So, alternately rejoicing and grieving, and all the while earnestly praying in spirit for pardon for the past, and for grace to help in time to come, he had worked on through the day, and was about to shoulder his spade and return home, when, lifting his eyes, he saw Peter Eobinson striding over the ground towards him.
"Oh!" thought he, "there's Peter coming to call back his forgiveness. God help me to be patient and humble, and to give the soft answer which, if 1 had given it a year ago, might have turned away his wrath."
By this time, Eobinson was close upon Smith; and, to the great astonishment of the latter, tears were freely running down his cheeks.
"Smith," said he, " you came to me this morning to ask me to forgive you. You hadn't ought to have done it; I had not ought to have let you. It is I that have to ask you to forgive me, for I have been most in fault all along. And this morning, 1 behaved more like a heathen than a Christian. Can you forgive me, Eli?"
Once more the hands met, and this time not in a cold, heartless, reluctant grasp.
"With all my heart, with all my soul, 'even as God, for Christ's sake,' has, I hope, forgiven me," cried Smith, joyfully: "but oh! why did we quarrel, Peter?"
Why did they quarrel?
I say again, I cannot tell you why. But I can tell you that the reconciliation was complete and permanent; and, although the erring friends could not undo the mischief their foolish quarrel had wrought, they thenceforward laboured together in adorning the gospel of Christ, their Saviour, in all things.
And happy results followed. The mouths of the ungodly and unbelieving were stopped; fellow Christians rejoiced; the religion of peace was vindicated; God was glorified; and the gospel was no longer hindered.
But why did they quarrel?
The labours of the day were over, and the pastor was seated by his fire-side, when a member of his flock came to pass the evening with him. It was a gentleman who had been recently afflicted by the loss of a wife to whom he was tenderly attached, and who had long been his fellowhelper in the pleasant work of the Lord's vineyard. "I am come, my friend," said he to the minister, "to converse with you on a subject which now occupies my mind much, and I should like to know your thoughts on it: I mean the recognition of each other in the world to come."
"It is, indeed," replied the minister, " a subject of deep and universal interest. What bereaved heart has ever failed to ask the question, 'Are the friends whom death has torn from us lost to us for ever-?' Still a belief that they are not seems to be so general, as to furnish a strong testimony to the reasonableness of the expectation. The hope of renewed intercourse with departed friends is peculiar to no age or nation of the world, but has been maintained as universally as the doctrine of a future state."
"Then you think it consistent with reason."
"So much so, that I often wonder how there can be any question about it. I once heard a gentleman of a sophistical turn say to a plain, unlearned person, who was consoling himself under the loss of a friend with the hope of future re-union, 'How do you know that we shall recognise each other in heaven?' The other answered, 'It would be a strange proof of the perfection of heaven if we lost our memories as soon as we got there.' This simple argument seems to me unanswerable. To suppose that we lost all recollection of the transactions of this life when we enter upon another would be contrary to reason and to Scripture—in fact it would be tantamount to the loss of our own identity; and if we retain a remembrance of our past history, we must also remember those who were connected with it."
"Still, my friend," replied the mourner, "a believer, however his reason may be convinced of the rationality of this most consoling dootrine, cannot rest satisfied without scriptural proof of its truth. Do you think that we are furnished with such?"
"I have no doubt of it; and I agree with you that the Christian mind cannot, and ought not to be satisfied on any matter of the kind without it. Human reason is but the servant of revelation, and its own speculations are not to be trusted; but reason in subserviency to Scripture holds an important office, which is especially seen in its relation to religious discoveries that are not directly affirmed, but rest upon the inductive evidence of the Bible."
"Then you think we have only such evidence for the doctrine in question?"
"I believe so; but it is quite sufficient. There are, I think, grounds for believing that even in the intermediate state between death and the resurrection mutual recognition will be a source of enjoyment to the redeemed. For instance, David's words on occasion of his child's death. 'I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me' (2 Sam, xii. 23); and Jacob's 'I will go down into Hades (as the word translated 'grave' should be rendered) unto my son mourning.' Gen. xxxvii. 35.
"But in various passages of the New Testament, there are sayings by Him who 'brought life and immortality to light by the gospel,' which almost amount to plain unequivocal declarations of his mind on the subject before us, in support of what you justly term the most consoling doctrine of recognition in the state of final blessedness, when the trumpet shall have sounded, and the dead have been raised incorruptible. As one instance I would quote Matt. viii. 11, 'And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven.' Now, I would ask, How could the special honour and happiness of meeting with these distinguished individualsbe realized without a knowledge of them? In the history of our Lord's ministry you will find other similar passages. The same inference may also be deduced from the epistles: without it that beautiful passage in 1 Thess. iv. 13, etc., written professedly that Christians should not sorrow hopelessly for those who had fallen asleep in Jesus, would be unmeaning and inappropriate."
The gentleman thought over these suggestions of his pastor for some time. "You have," said he, "satisfied me that there is scriptural support for the belief which I find so full of consolation. Still I have heard objections made to it; and one was the pain which, according to common apprehension, the righteous must feel in regard to the doom of impenitent friends."
"When a proposition is established by evidence," replied the minister "wo ought to assent to it although it may seem inconsistent with other truths. However, I think the objection you mention may be answered by remembering that, though Christian friendship survive death, affections which are merely earthly will find noplace in the new and spiritual constitution which is to be set up in the future world; also, that the mind will be so perfectly imbued with love to God as to be quite satisfied with all he has done."
"There is nothing wrong in anticipating with hope and joy our reunion with those whom we have loved and lost?"
"Certainly not, my friend; else Paul would not have referred to it as a source of consolation to the Thessalonian believers; but we should be careful that the hope of seeing Jesus occupies the first place in our hearts. While our love to living or to departed Christian friends is subordinate to that which we feel for him who saved both them and us, we may cherish it as a legitimate source of comfort and happiness. I have met with a passage by the Hon. Eobert Boyle,* which I think so beautiful, on the subject we have been conversing about, that I will read it for yon." He took down a book and read as follows—
"' For, those departed friends, whom at our last separation we saw disfigured by all the ghastly horrors of death, we shall then see assisting about the majestic throne of Christ, with their once vile bodies transfigured into the likeness of his glorious body, mingling their glad acclamations with the hallelujahs of thrones, principalities, and powers, and the most dignified favourites of the celestial court. I need not tell you that we shall be more justly transported at this meeting than was good old Jacob at that of his son Joseph, whom, having long mourned for dead, he found not only alive, but a great favourite, ready to welcome him to an unknown court. For, whereas the patriarch said to his son, "Now let me die since I have seen thy face," the seeing of our friends in heaven will assure us that we shall live for ever with them there; the reunion of friends there being as privileged from division as that of soul and body; for here indeed, if our friends do not allay our love by unwelcome actions, or their contagious sufferings, we commonly dote on them to a degree that, as it were, reduces God to deprive us early of them, and snatch our idols and his rivals from us; but there our completed graces will not only deserve but allow a higher strain of friendship, the near contemplation and fruition of the infinitely transcendant perfections of the Creator; keeping all our kindness to the creatures, not only subordinate to the love we owe to God, but grounded on it; as excited needles, when they stick fastest to each other, owe their union to their having both been touched by the loadstone, to which they have therefore both of them stronger inclinations than to either of the other.'
"Thank you, my friend," replied his listener; "and I will in return read for you a little poem I have with me, lately written by one who had met with a bereavement somewhat similar to my own."
* In his work entitled "Seraphic Love."