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Had given a facility to action, and a success w endeavor ; when wisdom had been learned from many mistakes, and a skill had been laboriously acquired in the use of many powers; and the being I looked upon had just compassed that most useful, most practical of all knowledge, — how to live, and to act well and wisely; yet I have seen such a one die!
Was all this treasure gained only to be lost ? Were all these faculties trained only to be thrown into utter disuse ? Was this instrument — the intelligent soul, the noblest in the universe — was it so laboriously fashioned, and by the most varied and expensive apparatus, that, on the very moment of being furnished, it should be cast away forever? No; the dead, as we call them, do not so die. They carry our thoughts to another and a nobler existence. They teach us, and especially by all the strange and seemingly untoward circumstances of their departure from this life, that they, and we, shall live forever. They open the future world, then, to our faith.
They open it also to our affections. No person of reflection and piety can have lived long, without beginning to find, in regard to the earthly objects that most interest him, - his friends, - that the balance is gradually inclining in favor of another world. How many, after the middle period of life, and especially in declining years, must feel — if the experience of life has any just effect upon them — that the objects of their strongest attachment are not here!
One by one, the ties of earthly affection are cut asunder; one by one, friends, companions, children, parents, are taken from us; for a time, perhaps, we are “in a strait betwixt two,” as was the apostle, not deciding altogether whether it is better to depart; but shall we not, at length, say with tho disciples, when some dearer friend is taken, “Let us go and die with him?"
The dead have not ceased their communication with us, though the visible chain is broken. If they are stiil the same, they must still think of us. As two friends on earth
and mingle toe earth, the otte minds that
may know that they love each other; as they may know, though dwelling in different and distant countries, without any visible chain of communication, that their thoughts meet and mingle together, — so may it be with two feiends, of whom the one is on earth, the other in heaven. Especially where there is such a union of pure minds that it is scarcely possible to conceive of separation, that union seems to be a part of their very being; we may believe that their friendship, their mutual sympathy, is beyond the power of the grave to break up.
26. The Same, continued.
“But ah!” we say, “ if there were only some manifestation; if there were only a glimpse of that blessed land ; if there were, indeed, some messenger bird, such as is supposed in some countries to come from the spirit land, how eagerly should we question it !” In the words of the poet, we should say, —
“ But tell us, thou bird of the solemn strain,
Can those who have loved forget?
The poetic doubt we may answer with plain reasoning, and plainer Scripture. We may say, in the language of reason, if they live there, they love there. We may answer, in the language of Jesus Christ, “ He that liveth and believeth in me, shall never die.” And again, “ Have ye not read," saith our Savior, “ that which was spoken unto you by God, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living."
* Then is it true that they live there; and they yet speak to us. From that calm region, from the bowers of life immortal, they speak to us. They say to us, “Sigh not in despair over the broken and defeated expectations of earth. Sorrow not as those who have no hope. Bear, calmly and cheerfully, thy lot. Brighten the chain of love, of sympathy, of com munion with all pure minds on earth and in heaven. Think, O, think of the mighty and glorious company that fill the immortal regions. Light, life, beauty, beatitude, are here. Come, children of earth, come to the bright and blessed land!”
I see no lovely features, revealing themselves through the dim and shadowy veils of heaven. I see no angel forms enrobed with the bright clouds of eventide. But “I hear a voice, saying, Write, Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord, for they rest — for they rest from their labors, and their works — works of piety and love, recorded in our hearts and kept in eternal remembrance — their works do follow them.” Our hearts — their workmanship - do follow them. We will go and die with them. We will go and live with them forever!
Can I leave these meditations without paying homage to that religion which has brought life and immortality to light? without calling to mind that simple and touching acknowledgment of the great apostle, “I thank God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Ah, how desolate must be the affections of a people that spurn this truth and trust!
I have wandered among the tombs of such a people; I have wandered through that far-famed cemetery, that overlooks, from its mournful brow, the gay and crowded metropolis of France; but among the many inscriptions upon those tombs, I read scarcely one; I read — to state so striking a fact with numerical exactness – I read not more than four or five inscriptions in the whole Père La Chaise, which made any consoling reference to a future life. I read, on those cold marble tombs, the lamentations of bereavement, in every affecting variety of phrase.
On the tomb of youth, it was written that “its broken. hearted parents, who spent their days in tears and their nights in anguish, had laid down here their treasure and their hupe.” On the proud mausoleum where friendship, companionship, or love, had deposited holy relics, it was constantly written, “Her husband, inconsolable," " His disconsolate wife," “A brother left alone and unhappy," has raised this monument; but seldom, so seldom that scarcely ever did the mournful record close with a word of hope — scarcely at all was it to be read amidst the marble silence of that world of the dead, that there is a life beyond; and that surviving friends hope for a blessed meeting again, where death comes no more
O death! — dark hour to hopeless unbelief! hour to which, in that creed of despair, no hour shall succeed. being's last hour! to whose appalling darkness, even the shadows of an avenging retribution were brightness and relief - death! what art thou to the Christian's assurance ? Great hour of answer to life's prayer — great hour that shall break asunder the bond of life's mystery — hour of release from life's burden — hour of reunion with the loved and lost - what mighty hopes hasten to their fulfilment in thee! What longings, what aspirations, — breathed in the still night, beneath the silent stars — what dread emotions of curiosity — what deep meditations of joy — what hallowed imaginings of never experienced purity and bliss — what possibilities shadowing forth unspeakable realities to the soul, all verge to their consummation in thee! O death! the Christian's death! what art thou, but the gate of life, the portal of heaven, the threshold of eternity!
The cemetery alluded to takes its name from Père La Chaise, confessor of Louis XIV., who purchased the land surrounding the house of the Jesuits, called Maison de Mont Louis, upon his being appointed superior of that establishment, in 1675. It was finally purchased by the prefect of the department of the Seine, and was consecrated as a cemetery in 1804. Its extent, of nearly one hundred acres, is surrounded by walls. Its a.lvantageous situation has occasioned it to be chosen by the most distinguished personages as the place of their interment; consequently, no Parisian cemetery can vie with this in the number and beauty of its monuments
27. Wife, Children, and Friends.
When the black-lettered list to the gods was presented,
The list of what Fate for each mortal intends, At the long string of ills a kind goddess relented,
And slipped in three blessings — wife, children, and friends.
In vain surly Pluto maintained he was cheated,
For justice divine could not compass its ends ; The scheme of man's penance he said was defeated,
For earth becomes heaven with — wife, children, and friends
If the stock of our bliss is in stranger hands vested,
The fund, ill secured, oft in bankruptcy enus; But the heart issues bills which are never protested,
When drawn on the firm of — wife, children, and friends.
Though valor still glows in his life's dying embers,
The death-wounded tar, who his colors defends, Drops a tear of regret as he dying remembers
How blessed was his home with-wife, children, and friends
The soldier, whose deeds live immortal in story,
Whom duty to far distant latitudes sends, With transport would barter old ages of glory
For one happy day with — wife, children, and friends.
Though spice-breathing gales on his caravan hover,
Though for him Arabia's fragrance ascends,
The bower where he sat with — wife, children, and friends,
The dayspring of youth, still unclouded by sorrow,
Alone on itself for enjoyment depends; But drear is the twilight of age, if it borrow
No warmth from the sinile of — wife, children, and friends.