And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ. Luke 2:26.
Bless the Lord! my soul is very happy this morning; all is serene and beautiful. All is calm and sunshine within.
"Not a cloud doth arise, to darken the skies; Or hide for a moment, my God from my eyes."
Hallelujah! my soul is very happy. My feelings were of an awful character, while preaching to you last evening, from that solemn passage of God's word, "Because I have called, and ye refused," etc. I felt I had a message from God to some persons in the congregation, and I believe it was a message of life and death with them; it was salvation or damnation. I believe a rejection of God's offer of mercy would speedily have sealed their doom; but they are here in this congregation this morning, and they may be saved this day. I believe they will be saved ere the sun shall again go down, ere we leave this house.
Our text is a joyful exclamation of a venerable old saint, upon seeing the Lord's Christ. It seems that when his eyes once looked upon Jesus, he never wished them to gaze on aught more on earth. Hence he exclaimed, "Now, Lord, lettest thou thy servant depart in peace." We remark-
I. That God always honors pre-eminently devoted men.
"Them that honor me," saith the Lord, "will I honor." Again, "The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him." If you attentively observe the history of men who have risen far above the common standard of Christian experience, men of eminent piety, you will generally find that such men are signally honored of God by some remarkable interpositions of Providence, by some special answers to prayer, by the bestowment of some gift, or by being rendered instrumental in the salvation of multitudes of immortal souls. These remarks could be borne out by a reference to the lives of holy men. With Abraham God conversed as a man with his friend, and when about to destroy Sodom, the matter was revealed to Abraham. Joseph was made the saviour of a nation. Moses was called up to Sinai to commune with the Deity for forty days. What a shield God held over David; truly he was immortal till his work was done. Enoch and Elijah were taken to heaven without dying. An angel descended with Daniel into the lions' den to shut their mouths. A form like the Son of God is seen walking in the fiery furnace with the three Hebrew youths, so that the smell of fire does not pass upon them. Paul is saved in a storm at sea, while the waves were commissioned to dash to pieces the vessel; and an angel stands by him on the deck, and Paul's life is spared, and the lives of the whole crew are given to him. We might refer you to Wesley, Whitefield, Bramwell, Smith, and a long list of others, and in some way or another God has specially honored every one of them. We have a case in point in our text. The time had come when the great Messiah was about to appear in the world, and this great fact God reveals to Simeon. It was revealed to him that he should not see death till he had seen the Lord's Christ. Undevout minds are too worldly, too apathetic, too dull, to hear the secret whispering of heaven. 'Tis the spiritual ear alone that can hear the still small voice that comes across the universe from the spirit world -' tis the spiritual eye alone that reads the secrets of eternity, that sees passing in review before it the realities of the hidden state. Some simple-hearted Christians were once returning from chapel; they had been to hear the holy Bramwell preach. One of them said to the other, "How is it that Mr. Bramwell has always something new to tell us?"
"Ah!" said the other, "I can tell you how it is; he lives very much nearer the gates of heaven than many of us, and God tells him things he does not tell other people."
And so it was with Simeon. He lived very much nearer the gates of heaven than many of his day; and God honored him by telling him this great fact. It was revealed unto Simeon that be should not see death till he had seen the Lord's Christ.
II. Simeon was a man of pre-eminent devotedness to God.
"And, behold," say the scriptures, "there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon." Observes an eminent divine, "No doubt there were many persons in Jerusalem named Simeon, besides this man, but there was none of the name who merited the attention of God so much as he in the text." There are four things said about him in the text, every one of which is an evidence of his great devotedness. It is said of him that he was just, devout, that he waited for the consolation of Israel, and that the Holy Ghost was upon him. He had been reconciled to God. This is assumed, for without this there would have been no devotedness, no waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Ghost never would have rested upon him. He believed the divine promise, and therefore waited for the consolation of Israel, He was devout, his soul went up in earnest prayer and thanksgiving to God, and the Holy Ghost was upon him. See what a beautiful gradation is here. Just man, just before God, justified through the blood of the Lamb. Just before men in all his actions, thus proving to the world that he was justified before God. A right heart and a right life. Devout, not a religion of mere forms and ceremonies, but devoutness of soul waiting for all the fullness of Christ; and then the great crowning point, the Holy Ghost resting upon him, attesting the divine approval, aiding him in his devotedness, guiding him in the temple to see the Lord's Christ. You cannot dispense with one of these elements from eminent piety, reconciliation, devoutness, a waiting upon God, and the possession of the Holy Ghost. O! what a sublime spectacle is a devout man, a man in audience with the Deity, a man breathing his thoughts, and those thoughts being taken up into the thoughts of the great God, a man on whom the gaze of Infinite Holiness is fixed with supreme delight, a man standing on the mount of communion catching the warblings of the triumphant church, exclaiming,
"I hear, or dream I hear, the distant strain, Sweet to the soul, and tasting strong of heaven."
There is no sight on earth, nor in heaven, more sublime than a man in communion with God. A virtuous man said, "a philosopher is the noblest work of God;" but we would rather say, "a Christian, a devout man, is the noblest work of God." Such a man is God's jewel, his friend; 'tis with him God delights to dwell; 'tis to him God will tell his secrets; on him confer his richest honors. Simeon was such a man; God honored him by telling him the great fact, that before death should close his eyes, he should see the Lord's Christ.
III. That though Simeon was an eminently devoted man, he had great discouragement in obtaining a sight of the object he so expectantly desired. What Simeon wanted was to see the Lord's Christ. Unbelief would suggest to him, "Simeon, you are an old man; your day is almost ended; the snow of age is upon your head; your eyes are growing dim, your brow is wrinkled, your limbs totter, and death cannot be at a great distance, and where are the signs of his coming? You are resting, Simeon, on a phantom of the imagination. It is all a delusion."
"No," replies Simeon, "I shall not see death till I have seen the Lord's Christ. Yes, I shall see him before I die."
But unbelief would again suggest, "Remember, Simeon, many holy men have desired to see the Lord's Christ, but have died without the sight; men quite as holy as you are, who did service for God such as you have never done; and how do you suppose that you will be permitted to see the great Messiah?"
"Yes," says Simeon, "I shall see the Lord's Christ. These eyes will not be dimmed by the shadows of death till I have seen him. God has said the word, and I shall see him for myself; mine eyes shall behold him, and not another."
I imagine I see Simeon walking out, on a fine morning; along one of the lovely vales of Palestine, meditating on the great subject that filled his mind. He is met by one of his friends, "Peace be with you; have you heard the strange news?"
"What news?" replied Simeon.
"Do you not know Zacharias the Priest?"
"According to the custom of the priest's office, his lot was to burn incense in the temple of the Lord, and the whole multitude of the people were praying without. It was the time of incense, and there appeared unto him an angel standing on the right side of the altar of incense, and told him that he should have a son, whose name should be called John; one who should be great in the sight of the Lord, who should neither drink wine nor strong drink, and he should be filled with the Holy Ghost from his infancy, and that he should go before the Messiah in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn many of the people of Israel to the Lord, and make ready a people prepared for the Lord. The angel was Gabriel, that stands in the presence of God; and because he believed not the angel, he was struck dumb."
"Ah!" says Simeon, "that is an exact fulfillment of the prophecy of Malachi (4:5, 6). This is the messenger of the Lord, to prepare the way, this is the forerunner, this is the morning star; the day dawn is not far off -- the great Messiah is on his way -- is nigh at hand. I shall not see death till I have seen the Lord's Christ. Hallelujah! the Lord shall suddenly come to his temple."
Simeon ponders these things in his heart, and time rolls on. I imagine I see Simeon again on his morning meditative walk. He is again accosted by one of his neighbors, "Simeon, have you heard the news?"
"Why, there's a very singular story in almost everybody's mouth. A company of shepherds on the plains of Bethlehem were watching their flocks; it was the still hour of night and the mantle of darkness covered the world; a bright light shone around the shepherds, a light above the brightness of the midday sun; they looked up, and just above them appeared an angel glowing in all the lovely hues of heaven. The shepherds became greatly terrified, and the angel said to them, 'Fear not, behold I bring you glad tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day, in the city of David, a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord; and, as a proof of what I say, if you will go to Bethlehem, you will find him wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger.' When the angel had finished the story, suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest, peace on earth, and good will to men.' The shepherds hastened away to Bethlehem, and found it just as the angel had stated. As they entered the stable, the rude oxen were feeding by the manger and there stood Joseph, a quiet, harmless-looking young man; there was also a lovely woman, watching with intense interest over an infant that lay in the manger. When they heaved up the cloth that covered the infant, oh, what a lovely face they beheld! Never had mortal eyes gazed on so lovely a face as that before!"
"Ah!" exclaimed Simeon, "born in Bethlehem, of the lineage of David -- born of a virgin, and then, just at this time, -- the very place predicted by the prophet, -- the exact time foretold by Daniel, -- the exact fulfillment of the predictions of Isaiah, -- the circumstances all wonderfully agree; and, then, the scepter was not to have departed from Judah till the Messiah should appear. This is the Lord's Christ, I shall not see death till I have seen the Lord's Christ." Then Simeon probably said to himself, "They will bring him to the temple to circumcise him." Away went Simeon, morning after morning, to see if he could get a glimpse of Jesus.
Those who are seeking Jesus will be found waiting for him in the temple; 'tis there he is often found. He has said, "Wheresoever two or three are met together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." If is a good thing to be found by the way. If the blind men had not been by the wayside, where the Saviour passed by, they might have remained blind forever. Go to the temple; the great physician often passes by there, and heals the sin-sick souls. Perhaps unbelief suggested to Simeon, "You had better stop at home this wet morning. You have been so many mornings and have not seen him, you may venture to be absent this once."
"No," says the Spirit, "you must go to the temple."
Away went Simeon to the temple. He would no doubt select a good post of observation. Look at him there, leaning his back against one of the pillars of the temple, how intently he watches the door! He sees one mother after another bringing her infant to the temple to be circumcised; he surveys the face of every child.
"No," says he, as his eye scans the countenance, "that is not he, and that is not;" but at length he sees the virgin appear, and the Spirit told him that that was the long-expected Saviour. He grasps the child in his arms, and pressed him to his heart, and exclaimed, "Now, Lord, lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: for mine eyes have seen thy salvation." Simeon had seen Jesus, and wished at once to pass away to the spirit world. The one grand object of Simeon was to see the Lord's Christ. Between Simeon and an awakened sinner there is one point of agreement: they both desire to see one object -- the Lord's Christ. When a sinner is awakened, fully aroused to a sense of his danger, around his mind the lightnings of divine truth flash; in the blaze of that light (as the clouds break that enveloped him), he sees a boundless immensity; before him a bleak untraveled eternity; above him, frowning upon him from a burning throne, a holy God; he sees himself sleeping on a precipice, on the crumbling edge of ruin, with vengeance pending ready to burst upon him, and flames roaring around; while beneath him at his feet, roll the waves of a burning hell; within him, the stings of a guilty conscience. Hear him, "What must I do? Whither can I fly? Fly from God, I cannot, nor from myself. Which way I fly is hell -- myself am hell -- a weight, like a tremendous mountain, presses me down, the very glooms of death envelop me. What must I do? I want help -- to whom must I look?"
Behold, a ray of light breaks in upon him, one single, but bright ray. It keeps him from utter despair, it gives him a faint hope, it enables him tremblingly to say, "Before I see death, I shall see the Lord's Christ." Then, unbelief suggests, "How do you suppose that you will be permitted to see the Lord's Christ? Do you think the great Jehovah, whose majesty almost confounds the cherubim and seraphim, at least compels them to cover over their bright faces with their wings, and fall before his throne in deep adoration, whose temple is all space, whose arm is around all worlds, who inhabits eternity, at whose bidding the sun lights up his fire, whose empire is so vast that were an angel, with the lightning's swiftness, to fly in a direct line from the center, he would not, in millions of years, sweep the outskirts of his creation, who sits upon the highest heavens, and sees worlds infinite dance beneath him as atoms in the sunbeam, you an atom, a shade, a moth, a worm, a flower of the field today and not tomorrow, in the morning and not at night, not master of a moment, not a match for a breeze, a dream, a vapor, a shadow, a sinner born to die, how do you suppose he will show you the Lord's Christ?" The awakened sinner replies: "One thing I know. I dare not die till I have seen the Lord's Christ. I cannot endure that horrid sting that gleams in Death's uplifted arm, I dare not face that grisly king of terrors in my sins, I cannot plunge into the future, till my load of guilty woe is gone. Ah! 'tis the open books, the terrible judgment, the awful unknown horrors that lie concealed in the future, -- 'tis those things I cannot endure -- that death so terrible without Christ. 'Tis true, I am insignificant, a shade, a blast, a worm; and, what is worse, a sinner. 'Tis true, God is great, beyond even angelic conception; but he humbles himself to behold the things done in heaven and on earth. He balances the planets in their motions; yea, he tinges the wing of the little insect that buzzes for an hour in the sunbeam, and then yields up its existence. He paints with lovely hues the beautiful little flower that blooms in my path; and is it not written in his book that a sparrow does not fall to the ground without his notice? that he clothes the lily of the valley, and numbers the hairs of my head? Then, the magnitude of his engagements does not overwhelm him, nor their multitude confound him. While he is balancing the motions of the planets, governing the armies of heaven, and superintending the vast universe, he can, at the same time, bend all the attention to me as fully as though I was the only object of his love. He made me, and by some unseen, mysterious power, he bids my heart beat sixty times a minute, and my blood to course its way round my system, he upholds my soul in life. He cares, then, for my body. Will he be less concerned about my soul? Will he arrange all nature to minister to my bodily wants, and leave my soul to perish? No, that is unlike him. Would he give his Bible to guide me, his Son to die for me, and his heaven for my eternal home, and then refuse to save me? No, I would rather believe that, were he creating a new system like the solar system of which we form a part, and were a sinner to send up a cry for mercy, that, could he not attend to the two things at once, he would stop the work of creation till he had saved the sinner. He will not overlook me. He will not leave me to perish. Before I see death, I shall see the Lord's Christ."
Unbelief again suggests, "Are not your sins too great in magnitude and multitude to be forgiven? Had you repented years ago, had you sought mercy in your youthful days, when the Spirit of God strove with you, before you had sinned away your day of grace, you might have been forgiven; but now is not your day of grace forever closed?" The sinner answers: "I know my sins are many; I may as well try to number the hairs of my head, the sands of the ocean, or the stars of heaven, as number them; and as to their magnitude, when I consider the extent of the law I have broken, the circumstances under which they were perpetrated, the Being against whom they were committed, when I consider that conscience lifted up its warning voice, that the blessed Spirit wooed, and strove, and flashed his light across my soul to check me, that heaven closed up its doors to shut me out, that the holy God frowned upon me, that hell seemed moved from beneath to meet me, that the Gospel put a torch in my hand, and led me up the hill of Calvary to look upon the torn, bleeding, dying Redeemer, and though he cast a look upon me of the softest pity, and all his wounds seemed to have tongues exclaiming, 'I suffered this for you!' yet I sinned on still; when I look at these things, I see my sins like mountains rising before me, the summits of which seem to scale the very heavens. Their stains on my soul are black as hell; and there is one sin in particular that presses on me like a mountain weight. It seems to stand out as a master sin; it is the sin of trampling on the precious blood of Christ, rejecting for years the great atonement. This stamps my sin with a guilt that outvies the fiends of perdition,
'But though my sins like mountains rise, And swell and reach to heaven; Mercy is yet above the skies -I still may be forgiven.'
Jesus died for me, not for himself, but for all, for me. Did not Isaiah seem to rush on over hundreds of years, and, as he walked around the cross, cry with a burning heart, 'He was wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities, the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and by his stripes we are healed'? Did not Zechariah say, 'In that day there shall be a fountain opened in the house of David, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and uncleanness'? Does not Paul say, 'How much more shall the blood of Christ, who, through the eternal Spirit, offered himself without spot to God, purge your consciences from dead works to serve the living God'? And did not Jesus reiterate the united voice of inspiration when he said, on the cross, 'It is finished'? And when he, the Saviour, bowed his blessed head, and died, did he not do all that was necessary, all that Heaven required? Paul said it was for the whole world, and John said it was for all sin. If, then, he died for all men, he must have died for me; if for all sin, then he must have died for mine. Here's a great fact, then, to which I will cling as with a death grasp. Jesus died for my sins. All the infidels on earth, and all the devils in hell, cannot disprove this fact. It was for man he died. Well, I am one of that species. It was for the lost -- I am lost; it was for sinners -- I am a sinner. Then I may boldly sing,
'Who did for every sinner die, Hath surely died for me.'
"But does the death of Christ reach my case?" It reached the case of a Manasseh, Saul of Tarsus, a Magdalene, a dying thief. O! the blood, the precious blood, of Christ! the blood of the great atonement! I fancy I see its influence girdling the world. It can reach the case of every sinner in this chapel; of every sinner in every hamlet, [hamlet n. a small village, esp. one without a church. -- Oxford Dict.] every town, every city, every nation, every continent; and, I had like to have said if every one of those globes of light that gleam out upon us from the deep-blue heavens were peopled with sinners, as numerous and as guilty as the sinners of the planet on which we live, the blood of the great sacrifice is efficacious enough to cleanse the whole from sin, enough to cleanse me. "Did he die for me? Then he will not reject me. He will not cast me off forever. He has bid me look to him and be saved; then I shall not die till I have seen the Lord's Christ."
But unbelief again suggests, "Do you suppose that the sins of an age can be pardoned in a moment of time -- sins that have spread over years of your life? Could you, by deeds of sacrifice, make some amends to Heaven for the deep wrongs you have inflicted, could you repair the breach in the broken law,-- could you satisfy offended justice, -- make a rigid reformation, -- weep and groan out months and years to come, -then you may hope to be forgiven."
"But," replies the pleading penitent, with his tearful eye and anxious soul gazing towards the Saviour of sinners, "ah! if that be true, if I am to wait years, ere those years shall have rolled round, my body may be slumbering in the cold grave, and my soul buried deep in the grave of a burning hell. But salvation is not of works. If it were, it would be a question of time. Eighteen hundred years ago, on the accursed tree, Jesus said, It is finished. Then my sins were expiated; then the blessed Saviour heaved the load from this guilty world; and, besides there is no hint in the Bible that I must stop for time. Does he not say, 'Come now, and let us reason together, and though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool'? Then, since Christ has finished the work, -- since the Bible never hints that I must stop longer, -- since salvation is by grace, not by works, -- since everything is done that can be done, -- I will dare believe, I will go as I am; I will look up to the bleeding Saviour; I will see him, or perish in the attempt. I will make my way to him step by step; and though it be through blood, fire, and death, -- yea, though all hell shall oppose my soul, -- I'll fight my passage through. I am a sinner, and unless saved must soon sink into hell. I stand on one planet, one world, but death will soon push me off. And what will become of me? I see before me two worlds. One of them is the burning planet of hell, and my sins are like weights to sink me down within the sphere of its gravitating influence. My soul is magnetized by sin, and on my sins its gravitating laws will act; and, as I leave this planet, it will attract me downwards towards the center of that fearful region; and as I near it, those shadowy forms of lost fiends and damned men will rise up, and, with withering sarcasm, exclaim, 'Art thou also become as one of us?' What shall I do? I see also another planet, girdled with a halo of light -- light from another sun. I see there a throne blazing with majesty and glory; I see myriads of shades of light, moving like beams of light, circling that throne. I see on it the King of eternity -- the God I have offended; but, there is a rainbow-girdling that throne, and written upon it, in letters of light, 'God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have everlasting life.' This is the good news brought me from that world. It is written in a book. -- 'Lord! from that stupendous height, towards which the cherubim lifts up an eye in vain, bow down thine ear, show me thy Son! Thou giver, guider, lover, yea, buyer of souls, let not thine anger burn forever; cast me not away, reclaim, not destroy me.' Thou didst look with compassion on a denying Peter, and did not reject disbelieving Thomas; thou didst gather to thyself in paradise (where angels cast their crowns at the feet) a thief from the cross. What a wonderful climax is this! And is it possible for love to rise higher still? O! let it rise higher, and reach even me. Does not thy love, like a great ocean, overflow the whole creation? Then, add to thy wonders one wonder more, and save even me!' Yes, thou wilt; thy word is pledged; I shall see him; these eyes shall feast on him; before the king of terrors shall strike the blow, I shall see the Lord's Christ. Then, let death hurl me from this planet, -- let hell send out its gravitating influence, -- let all the fiends of perdition throw their spell around me, -- the sight of Christ will save me! Here, then, I am shut up to the faith, like a man shut up in a castle. Break through the walls I cannot; to scale its summit I have no power; but heaven has opened a door! I see before me an open door, -- I look through it. Yonder is a mountain; and on that mountain I see rising, above a dense crowd of beings, the form of a cross. The sight wanes away into darkness, darkness at noon. How awful that darkness! I feel the planet on which I stand trembling in its orbit. How the earth quakes, heaves and swells, around me! Hark! the very rocks are rending asunder. How deafening those peals of thunder! Those flashes of lightning, how fearfully vivid! The storm rages on -- the elements are all at war. Behold the lurid lightnings playing over the graveyard! Look! look! the very dead are rising from their tombs. Is the day of doom arrived? are the elements returning to their chaotic state? is the great white throne about to burst upon our view? No; I feel the trembling of earth subsiding -- those awful sounds are less loud, -- they grow fainter and fainter. Now, all is quiet -- quiet, how fearfully quiet! Surely the very winds are sleeping; surely neither man nor angel nor devil seems to breathe. The maddened cry, the blood cry, the death cry, the cry of "crucify Him," which rang so wildly around that summit a few minutes since, is now hushed. O! how oppressive this silence! 'Tis like the silence of death. The death of winds, the death of ocean, the death of angels, the death of demons -- the quiet of universal death. Hark! hark! a faint cry -- it comes down on the moaning winds -- 'Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani!' and, 'It is finished'. See! see! a faint streak of light breaks -- glimmers over the mountain. I see, through the gloom, the shadowy outline of a cross. I see a form, a human form, writhing in agony on that cross. I see blood dripping over that brow -- dripping from those hands and feet fastened by the nails! O! what a countenance is that, though covered with dust, and sweat, and blood! A heavenly radiance beams from it! How full of compassion! That is the Lord's Christ! See! my soul, the pardon of all thy sins is written with pointed steel and streaming blood on his pierced hands and feet. He speaks to thee. His cross is his pulpit, -- his blood, his eloquence, -his death, his subject. He speaks to thee; listen, oh, listen to him! 'Believe, and thou hast everlasting life; believe, and a grain of faith will remove mountains of guilt; believe with all thy heart; all things are possible to him that believeth. Thou hast played with fiery serpents; they have bitten thy heart, but I have already sucked the mortal poison. In the perilous attempt, my soul was seized with sorrow, even unto death; and an unheard of agony, attended with a bloody sweat, came upon my body; a racking cross was the bed I was stretched upon; sharp thorns proved the pillow on which I rested my fainting head; the bitterest sarcasms were my consolations; vinegar and gall my cordials; a band of bloody soldiers the cruel wretches appointed to tear open my veins; whips, nails, a hammer, and a spear, the instruments allowed them to do the dreadful operation. For hours I bled under their merciless hands; and thy fearful curse, oh! sinner, flowed together with my blood. In the mean time, noonday light was turned into the gloom of night, -- a dire emblem of the darkness that overspread my agonizing soul, -- and, at last, while earthquakes rocked me into the sleep of death, I gave up the ghost. And now, sinner, despise no more such amazing love; requite it with a believing look! By all that is near, and dear, and sacred to thee, fly from eternal death -- fly for eternal life. The law pursues thee with ten thousand curses; the sword of divine vengeance flames over thy devoted head. Death levels his pointed spear at thy thoughtless or throbbing heart; hell itself is moved from beneath to meet thee at thy coming; and the grave gapes at thy feet, ready to close her hideous mouth upon thee. Fly, then, miserable sinner! If thy flesh is not brass, and thou canst not dwell with everlasting burnings, fly for shelter to my bloody cross. The Philistines are upon thee; instantly shake thyself; burst the bonds of spiritual sloth; break, like a desperate soul, out of the prison of unbelief; escape for thy life, -- look not behind thee, -- stay not in all the plain! This one thing do, leave Sodom and her ways behind, and press towards the little Zoar, and escape to the mount of God, lest thou be consumed! Dost thou at last yield? -- dost thou turn thy trembling heart and tearful eye towards me?' 'Yes,' exclaims the penitent,
'I yield! I yield! I can hold out no more; I sink, by dying love compelled, And own thee Conqueror.'
My one object now is to see thee. Yes; 'tis he! 'tis he! My Lord, that suffers there. Thou art my salvation I will trust in thee, and not be afraid! I dare, I can, I do believe! Hallelujah! My Lord, and my God! 'Now, Lord, lettest thou, etc.'"
When we have seen Christ, the sting of death is gone. Simeon pressed the Lord's Christ to his heart, and then he never wished his eyes to gaze on aught more of earth; and when the believing penitent has Christ in his heart, the hope of glory, then he is not afraid of death. Two or three facts will bear out this statement. Some time since, a minister of the Gospel was called upon to visit a dying woman. He ascended a flight of stairs that led into a miserable-looking garret; for, though clean and neat, there was scarcely an article of furniture to give an air of comfort to the chamber of death. In one corner of the room there was a bed -- a bed of straw! On it lay a dying female, pale, and worn to a skeleton; she was near the verge, the trembling verge, of eternity. The minister drew nigh, and said to her, "Well, my friend, how do you feel? -- what are your prospects for the eternity which is just about to open upon you?"
She looked up in the friend's face, with a countenance bright with heavenly radiance, and beaming with a brightness she had caught gazing on the visions of God, and said, "O! sir,
'Tis Jesus, the first and the last, Whose Spirit shall guide me safe home; I'll praise him for all that is past, And trust him for all that's to come.'
Christianity can make a bed of straw into a bed of down; can convert a gloomy sick chamber into the vestibule of heaven -- a chamber where the soul unrobes and plumes herself for her flight. That is one case -- I will give you another.
There was a young woman who had been converted to God, that lived in a family where Christianity was neglected and despised, especially in the shape of Methodism. Shortly after her conversion she was laid on a bed of sickness, and felt greatly the need of pious counsel -- of Christian consolation. But her friends strongly forbade the leader of the class to which she belonged to see her. The good man, however, was not to be deterred by difficulties; he made his way to her house, and, when denied the privilege of an interview with the dying sufferer, he knelt down outside the house, under the window of the expiring female, and lifted up his voice in prayer to God that he would support her. As the tones of the well-known voice in fervent prayer stole through her casement, and fell sweeter than music on her ear, the effect upon her was so cheering, that her friends resolved to allow the man of God to see her. As he stood by her bedside, she said to him, "O! sir, I see before me a dark valley -- dark as the blackest night. How, oh! how shall I get through it?"
"O!" said her leader, "God will send thousands of holy angels to light up for you the dark valley of death."
Some weeks passed away ere the leader had an opportunity of visiting the young woman again; and when he did come, she had taken her flight to the world of spirits. He inquired of her friends what the state of her mind was at the hour of death. "O" said they, "we scarcely know; she appeared to rave a little. Just as she was dying, she was crying out, 'Lit up, lit up.'"
"Ah!" said the good man, "God had lit up the valley of death." Yea, the holy angels whispered her happy spirit away. She saw a light other eyes did not see; she heard voices -voices from eternity -
"Hark! they whisper, angels say, Sister spirit, come away!"
And they bore her happy spirit up to the regions of immortality. The righteous hath hope in his death. This is another testimony to the fact that at the eventide of the Christian it shall be light that a sight of Christ can banish the fear of death, and enable the dying saint to exclaim, with Simeon, "Now Lord, etc."
I will yet add one more testimony to this truth. In a certain town, not long since, lived a widow woman, surrounded by seven children, and the most of them small. Her life had been marked by preeminent devotedness. Seldom was her seat vacant at the preaching, either week-night or Sabbath; and as sure as her class-meeting night came round, she was there. Her prayers, in the midst of the little band with whom she assembled, were marked by great fervor, and often reached the point that may be called wrestling with God. The last night she attended her class-meeting, just one week before she died, her prayer amounted almost to agony, as she pleaded for her class-members, and the prosperity of the cause of God. Every person present on that memorable occasion, who heard that memorable prayer, felt that they were in a heavenly place, on the verge, in the vestibule, the very ante-chamber, of heaven. On the Thursday evening previous to her death, she came to the chapel to hear the word of God. The preacher had been led out of his usual course, to preach on that beautiful passage, "O, that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and his wonderful works to the children of men!" There she sat before the preacher, and the great tears coursed their way down her cheek, till she was completely subdued, and the tears gushed from her eyes while she contemplated the goodness of God. When she returned home into the bosom of her little family, the children marked a heavenly radiance beaming on her countenance, and said, "O! mother, how happy you look!"
She replied, "I wish I could sing; I feel so happy, I do not know what to do. I don't know what is going to happen, but my soul is filled with God."
That very night she was seized with an illness that proved fatal. Her pain became of an excruciating character. She underwent a surgical operation extremely painful. While the doctor was performing his operation, she was shouting "Glory, glory, glory to God!" It soon became evident that death was rapidly approaching, and her family gathered around her dying bed. One of the daughters, grown up, had not yet given her heart to God. The dying mother became now all absorbed in the salvation of her daughter; she solemnly urged her to give herself to God. She said to her, "Will you meet me in heaven? will you? Your mother will soon be in heaven. This is my last advice -- will you meet me in heaven?"
The daughter sobbed out, "Yes, I will try to meet you there."
Her little children also were there. They were about to become orphans; the father had died in the Lord two years before. They had come to take the last view of their fond mother-- to receive her last blessing. The dying woman had a very aged father and mother, whose heads blossomed for eternity. They were sent for to see her end. They came, and the meeting was deeply affecting. There stood the venerable old people and the little children around the bed of the dying mother. The interest of the whole group, from the little child to the gray-headed parents, was centered in one object -- in the dying mother. Her spirit was now quivering on the very suburbs of eternity. She, however, gathered up her strength for the occasion -- roused her spirit to make one effort more for her God, and solemnly charged them all to meet her in heaven. Turning to her little children, her eye wandered from them to her parents. Like her dying Master, feeling a concern for those she was leaving behind, she said to her parents, "Will you take care of my children -- my little children?"
They wept as though their hearts would break; the scene was deeply affecting. Her work was now done; the last tie was now severed -- her charge given up; her tabernacle was falling down, but her spirit was rising up in majesty. Her husband had died about two years before -- died in the Lord. Looking intently into one corner of the room, -- as though she saw some object there, she called her husband by his name, and exclaimed, "There are Simeon and the angels come for me -- I shall soon be with you!" And in a short time she clapped her glad wings and towered away, to mingle with the blaze of day. She had seen Christ, and could now say, with Simeon, "Now, Lord lettest, etc." This is another testimony to the fact that a sight of Christ will destroy the fear of death. Come, desponding believer, and sing with the sacred bard,
"When I survey the wondrous cross On which the Prince of glory died, My greatest gain I count but loss, And pour contempt on all my pride.
"Were the whole realm of nature mine, That were a present far too small; Love so amazing, so divine, Demands my life, my soul, my all.'