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THE FIRST GRAVE.
Let us go to this holy martyr's grave; not to worship him, but to imitate him in worshipping God; not to ask him to intercede with God for us, but to learn the worth, to us, of that Saviour, who interceded for him, and took him to himself. The Bible does not mention any burial, or any mourners. Cain may have buried him in the ground from whence “the voice" of his blood cried to God; or perhaps Adam found his remains unburied, and, with the sorrowing Eve, laid him in his lonely bed. What a scene! Now, the meaning of the threat given before the fall, and of the sentence afterwards in paradise, begins to be felt. Though they have not yet tasted death themselves, they see, partly, what death is. Bitterly do they know, more than they knew before, what their sin has done, bringing
“Death into the world, and all our woe!" This grave was the first of innumerable millions. The grave is the only earthly inheritance of which we are sure.
Look at that first grave, and take warning. Yours, reader, will open for you. Are you pursuing pleasure, or wealth, or honour, or ease, or knowledge ? Look before you. See that grave at the end of your path; it is—YOUR OWN. Will it be a believer's grave ?-the grave of one who has rested his hopes of acceptance with God in life, in death, in the judgment, on Jesus Christ?
Look at the first grave, and be stirred up, first of all, by God's grace, to “make sure” of your acceptance with God through Jesus Christ; and then, to honour your God and Saviour in a course of watchful preparation for the end. Have you yet to begin a life of devotion to Christ? Are you, having begun, slothful in your business? Are you slumbering? “Whatsoever thy hand indeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.” .
Look at the first grave, and think of others. While you read, some are dying. Shall your brothers and sisters be buried out of the sight of the living before they are warned, pitied, and led to Jesus? Shall the sorrowing.be forgotten the mother, whose heart is now bleeding ? the father, whose soul is bowed down ? the widow? It is good to “ weep with them that weep." It is like our Saviour; it softens our hearts; it weans us from the world; it improves our piety.
Look at the first grave, and thank God that you are among the living; to repent, if you have not repented; to flee to the Conqueror of the grave, if you have not fled to him; to glorify him by presenting your body " a living sacrifice, holy, and acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service."
Look at the first grave, and let it remind you of the grave of Jesus. Mark with what care and loving reverence the body of our crucified Saviour was laid in the tomb. We learn from his own words that his spirit, which he commended to his Father on the cross, was then in paradise; thus teaching those who trust in him, that when “absent from the body" they shall be " present with the Lord;" that “to depart" is “ to be with Christ." By leaving his body in the tomb, he submitted to the humiliation of burial as well as to the pains of death. When we go down to the dust, we follow our Lord.
Look on the first grave once more, and hope. Hope for Abel, that he shall rise from his long sleep. Hope for those believers who have been committed to the silent mansions. Hope for all the infants that have died; of whom Jesus has said, “of such is the kingdom of heaven." Hope for yourself, Christian reader. The Saviour has assured his true followers—"I go to prepare a place for you; and if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also." Words of truth; and words of comfort! He who " died for our sins, rose also for our justification." Let us think much of his resurrection. As we read in the verses which follow the account of his burial, how he showed his power, proved his Father's acceptance of his obedience “unto death,” accomplished his predictions, and gave the surest pledge of the fulfilment of all his promises, by rising from the dead; let us rejoice in him as our Redeemer, who “ hath the keys of death and the grave," who is “the resurrection and the life.”
In thy cross, we see our crown;
Reader, lay these things to heart. You belong to a fallen race. You inherit a corrupted nature. Your heart tells you that you have offended the holy, righteous God. You know that he will not pardon the impenitent, nor spare the unbelieving, nor admit the unholy to his presence. You see that “the wages of sin is death;" that "the sting of death is sin." You observe that the grave is preparing for you ; that you are going to it. You are sure that, by refusing to think, you cannot alter these things. Then, will you not think of them? Will you not pray God to write them on your heart?
Then what my thoughts design to do,
WHAT SEED ARE YOU SOWING ? What would you think of the wisdom, or even of the common sense of a man whom you found sowing his field with tares in the hope that they would produce wheat; or, if he were sowing it with the seed of thistles, and said he expected he should reap therefrom a crop of barley? And yet, reader, is there, after all, no possibility that “thou art the man ?”
Why should not the seed of tares produce wheat, and that of thistles barley? You may say, experience teaches us otherwise. True, but that does not fully answer the question. The correct reply is this : God gave at the creation to every herb and every tree the power of producing seed after its kind : “ Thou sowest-bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain : but God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body," 1 Cor. xv. 37, 38. So that as certainly as night succeeds day, and harvest succeeds seed-time, year after year, “ WHATSOEVER A MAN SOWETH, THAT SHALL HE ALSO REAP,” Gal. vi. 7. The reason is, God has ordered it so. It might have been otherwise, for God can do all things; but so it has pleased him, and no power of man can make any change in the arrangement.
But why sa so much on so very plain a point ? Because it shows the force of what follows: “ Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. FOR HE THAT SOWETH TO HIS FLESH
SHALL OF THE FLESH REAP CORRUPTION; BUT HE THAT SOWETH TO THE SPIRIT SHALL OF THE SPIRIT REAP LIFE EVERLASTING,” Gal. vi. 8. Observe, the assertion is not merely true as it regards sowing in the ground, and reaping the fruits of the earth, but it is equally true of another kind of sowing, and another kind of reaping. The connexion between the seed-time and the harvest is as much ordered by God, and therefore just as certain, in the one case as it is in the other.
In some degree we may see this plainly. A man spends all his money in drinking, gaming, and sensual gratifications. Does this tend to the health, long life, prosperity, respectability, comfort, and happiness of himself and his family? Might you not just as well expect that the seed of tares would produce wheat? Another man neglects the education and training of his children, letting them go into the society of the worst companions, and practise wickedness. Do you expect to see those children grow up industrious, honest, respectable, and virtuous ? Miglit you not just as soon hope to reap barley from thistleseed ? “ Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.”
But man possesses a soul which teaches him to look beyond this present world. The Bible instructs us to think of more than we can see-to believe that which we at present see not. Now, as there is a God, and a heaven of holiness and of happiness, does it not appear reasonable that a soul which loves God, and serves him, and delights in him, and enjoys communion with him, and longs for his favour and his presence, is prepared after death to dwell with him in the abode of happiness and of holiness for ever? This will be but going to enjoy a happiness “ after his kind,” for which such a man was already fitted and prepared, and the beginning of which he had already tasted on earth.
But, on the other hand, let us suppose a man to die, filled with evil feelings and pride, and envy and malice ; since death can produce no moral change, that is, no change in a man's character and dispositions, how clearly it appears that all these passions in another world, will necessarily constitute a condition of most intolerable wretchedness : “ Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap."
Or, to take another supposition. A man toils and labours night and day to acquire wealth. His motive for doing so is the future comfort of himself and his family. But let us suppose, as is often the case, that death surprises him in the midst of all his toil; or, as is always the case, that it overtakes him very soon, at most in a very few years, after he has reached the object of his ambition; it is quite evident that he cannot take away with him that kind of enjoyment in the pursuit of WHAT SEED ARE YOU SOWING ?
no pains, and made no provision for his welfare beyond the grave, is it reasonable to expect that he will be happy in that world to which he is called away?
This is a most serious subject. Let us look at it a little more closely. The verse already quoted begins with this warning: “BE NOT DECEIVED; GOD IS NOT MOCKED: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap," etc. There is danger, then, of deception. We may think we are sowing good seed, when in truth it may be nothing but tares; and time is passing away, and the harvest is coming on, which will decide the fact at once and for ever. It is of infinite importance to be sure of the character of our conduct, since our thoughts, feelings, words, and actions have a connexion with what shall be hereafter, and according as they are spiritual and heavenly, or as they are carnal and earthly, they will issue in an eternity of happiness or misery.
Do you ask how this certainty is to be obtained ? It is by comparing your state and conduct with the requirements of the Scriptures. If you are diligently and with much prayer seeking to know the will of God, as revealed by his Spirit in the Bible, Prov. ii. 2, etc.; John v. 39; Luke xi. 13; if you are sincerely receiving and embracing his method of salvation, through faith in Jesus Christ, as there pointed out, John iii. 14-36; Acts xiii. 38, 39; if you are holding constant communion with God as a reconciled Father, through his beloved Son, Gal. iv. 6,7; Rom. viii. 15–17; if you are, through the Spirit, daily mortifying your corrupt passions and affections, Rom. viii. 13; if you are seeking in everything to be led by the Spirit of God, Psa. cxliii. 10; Rom. xiii. 14; if you are using to the glory of God the talents entrusted to you, and endeavouring, as a parent, friend, neighbour, or in any other relation of life, to apply all your influence to bring others to Christ, Matt. xxv. 21; Ephes. vi. 4; Jas. v. 20; then you are “ sowing to the Spirit;" and as certainly as every seed produces its own kind, shall you “reap life everlasting." You may be “ sowing in tears;" seed-time is a laborious, not always a happy season, but you shall “reap in joy.” “You may now be going forth weeping, bearing precious seed; but you shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing your sheaves with you," Psa. cxxvi. 5; 6; for “ to him that soweth righteousness there shall be a sure reward,” Prov. xi. 18. Saved not only yourself, but probably you will be the happy instrument of influencing others, and they many others: thus your joy shall be receiving a perpetual increase. For he that thus reapeth “receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together,” Jolin iv. 36.