DEEP-SEA FISHING

AncientMarinerDEEP-SEA FISHING A. H. F. FISCHER, D.D., Phoenixville, Pa.
Launch out into the deep.—Luke 5: 4.

THE accounts we have of the Master are but a very small portion of the things which he did. One biographer [John the Apostle] even states that if all were recorded the world itself could not contain the books [this is because Jesus was the first of God’s creation]. And yet there are no gaps in that comparatively short life. It moves along in perfect smoothness from start to finish. Now on what principle did the Spirit guide the sacred writers to omit what was not necessary to give us a succinct life and its work! On what principle did Christ enter the boat and tell certain men to fish where they had toiled all night and caught nothing, to go out into deeper waters, with such marvelous results! On what principle does Christ come into the life of tired disappointed men and fill them with encouragement and cheer! On the principle that he always does the right thing at the needed time. The early Church Fathers greatly emphasized the account of the miraculous draught of fishes. They said this story must never be allowed to die out, because it brings out one of the most encouraging lessons in human experience, viz., to work where we have failed and there meet success. It is a parable of the abiding influence of Christ in the world. Whenever you say to a man who is despondent, who feels he has been defeated, who has lost his grip and thinks everyone has deserted him and he has not a friend in the world, when you say to such a man, “Try again,” a sort of miracle of God occurs. New life and hope and energy enter the man and he faces defeat with a determination that means victory. Now the gospel is the voice of God to disheartened men. It says, get up and try again, there is a new fortune to be won where the old one was lost, a victory to be scored where our defeat was recorded. It comes to a man when depressed and tells him to take heart again.

This lake was a great place for fish. These men made their living catching fish and supplying the many surrounding towns with the product of their industry. They were accustomed to fish at night, for the fish then drew near the shore to feed. But they had a very unsuccessful night of it, a water-haul every time, and they had given it up and were drying their nets on the beach when Jesus appeared on the scene. A great crowd was there, and using Simon’s boat as a pulpit, he preached to them. Then, as if to reward him for the use of his improvised pulpit, he told Simon to launch out into the deep and let down his nets for a draught. Tired and disheartened with the night’s failure, Simon said, “Master, we have toiled all night and taken nothing, nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net.” And the haul was so tremendous that the net broke, and they had to call another boat, and the catch almost swamped both of them. That is the story.

But what good is there in a fish story? First this. Our Lord sent these men back to the very waters where they had failed; sent these discouraged fishermen to cast their nets in the same place where they had been working all night and caught nothing. So God sends us not to other places or other work, but where failure faced us. Now the business of these men was to know when and where to fish. They were experts, and doubtless they expected to be successful just where they failed. Christ might have said, you failed where you were, now let us go to another place, let us try our luck there. And the disciples might have added, yes, we have fished at the wrong place, we must go to other waters. For the tendency of the human heart is to give a materialistic interpretation to all life’s successes and failures. This or that was the cause of the success or the failure, leaving God out of the question altogether. We can imagine a man saying, if I could only go off to some new place every time I get discouraged trying again would be a much easier thing: if I could be somebody else, or go somewhere else, or do something else, it might not be hard to have fresh faith and courage. We can imagine a preacher saying, if I had only gone to China or the Philippines, or to some other field of labor, or if I would connect myself with some other denomination, perhaps I would be more successful in my work. If I would leave my profession and go into business, or as the case may be, leave my business and prepare for some profession, I might find my real place in life. But the Master knows best. It is the same old net in the same old pond for most of us. The old temptations are to be overcome, the old faults to be conquered, the old trials and discouragements before which we failed yesterday to be faced again today. Yes, the old things will be there, the people, some of whom we almost hated and with whom it was so hard to get along— the same people will be there. And back to them Christ sends us. We must win success where we are if we win it at all, and it is the Master himself, who, after all these toil-filled disheartening efforts that we call failures, bids us try again. George Eliot once said that the ethics of Jesus were too effeminate, that they did not appeal to the heroic, and consequently the teachings of Christ made weak men. But what could be more heroic than the life of the apostles! We read how once the disciples put up a good fight. Peter and the other apostle when imprisoned and charged that they should no longer teach in Christ’s name, replied, “We ought to obey God rather than men.” Peter, the same man who in the presence of some of these people denied with an oath that he knew the Christ, now defends him, and with imprisonment and perhaps death staring him in the face, boldly advocates his Master’s cause. And with what effect on the people? They perceived that these men had been with Jesus. They saw the firmness and the rock-like character of Jesus speaking out through them. That is the iron hand beneath the silken glove of the gospel.

Peter, the denier, the failure, goes back among the men before whom he failed, where he had proved to be a coward, and there shows himself a man of courage and unquestionable bravery. The ethics of Jesus too effeminate! Not when it transforms men like that and sends them back amidst old scenes, old failures, to face old enemies, and friends who proved treacherous, amongst old and adverse conditions, and there to make good, there to wrest victory out of former defeats. This is the nature of the gospel. Christ did not promise us anything else, but a life of battle, but it was to be accompanied by its compensating conquests. The nature of the gospel is to make man face difficulties until he is crucified with Christ; until he bears in his body all through life the marks of the Lord Jesus. He set his face like a flint steadfastly toward Jerusalem, his Calvary, but his place of victory, where before he could not do many mighty works: victory out of defeat. So the disciples went back to the lake again.

But it was Christ who sent them back. The followers of Christ should always remember, that, as soldiers, they are under orders. Whatever their work, and wherever their place may be, they are under the great Commander. Back of the disciples’ order was Christ. It is he whom they must obey. Nothing can be really failure which is obedience to his command; and some bright morning the great draught of reward will come. Worry does no good. It does not make the burden lighter, the road shorter, or the duty easier. The sensible thing to do is to face the fact that is discouraging or hard, and under Christ’s command go right on. He was a wise traveler who when his horse died, said, “I must walk now,” and trudged on with cheerful energy. A good many people would have sat down beside the dead horse and spent hours in worry. Happiness, content, and success at last; all doubts answered; all dark places lighted up; heaven begun here: this is the reward of obeying and loving Christ. In this world disappointment and tribulation; yes, but good cheer in spite of them.

And then though Jesus sent the disciples bark to the same waters, he sent them more deeply into them. “Launch out into the deep,” was the command. So men are to go back, but to plunge more deeply and earnestly into their work. It is what men keep back from Christ that is the cause of most of their trouble and the lack of their spiritual growth. The young man was willing to memorize and keep a few commandments, but he failed utterly in not consecrating himself and all he had. We consecrate only a part of our life. We give the Lord only a mite of our time and substance, an hour Sunday morning or evening, as is convenient, and a painfully small offering, reserving all the rest for self, and thus we rob God. Christ gave all. O, the depth of the riches of his grace which he has bestowed upon us! It is our shallow way of doing great things that is the torture. Shallow plowing produces scant crops. Plow deeply if you would have a rich and nourishing soil. There is a shallow way of serving Christ for the emoluments of the service, or to minister to our pride, or to have social standing, not rendering him our homage from the deep principle and motive of lore. Many a man presents the gospel in a shallow way because of a consciousness of his own inefficiency. Those in Corinth thought Paul was not rhetorical enough, not verbose enough, he did not “orate.” They thought his speech contemptible, and it disturbed Paul. He felt his weakness and thought some other might do better. But in the thirteenth chapter of First Corinthians he breaks away from all this and finds himself; finds the heart of all service, the true motive in consecration. He shows that there can be no complete consecration of all the powers of body, soul, and mind unless love be the strong under flowing current. If we were as anxious to be good men and women as we are to be good preachers, good teachers, good business men, good house-keepers and home-makers, we must go more deeply into self and into Christ.

A man was riding in a trolley car one day and he became very much interested in watching the movements of the motorman. Sometimes the car would run forty miles an hour, and then twenty, then ten, and then stand still. But he saw no corresponding motion on the part of the motorman. They were using the third rail system. So he went to the motorman and said, “I have been watching you for some time, and have noticed the variations of speed, but I cannot see how it is done.” The motorman replied, “When I lift up this lever the speed slackens; when I press down it goes; when I press half we skid the live rail. I just keep above it and the car runs by its own momentum.”

There are many professed Christians who just skid the third rail, the rail that furnishes the power. They work or run by their own momentum, as they feel or when they want to. They do not press down on Christ, the source of all spiritual power, the great dynamic of religious activity. And that is the reason there is so little enthusiasm and fire and activity and loyalty in Christian work to-day. Why is it that so many persons are victims of the tuberculosis germ? It is because they do not breathe deeply enough and there is so little lung or chest expansion. So many lung-cells are not used at all; and hence, not being strengthened, they are susceptible or subject to any and every microbe that floats in the air. Breathe deeply, that is the law of health physically. Launch out into the deep, that is the law of health and success spiritually.

And note too, that when Jesus sent the disciples out into deeper waters, he went back with them. Take Christ with you wherever you go. Take him as your silent Partner in every business, and your life’s work will never spell failure. Jesus never sends a man into deeper water, or calls to him for a fuller consecration, without going with him. “Lo, I am with you always,” will turn any apparent failure into success.

There is a story told of a Scottish minister, a man of delicate constitution, one of those peculiarly sensitively organized creatures who have the poetic insight and the prophetic vision, who see farther and deeper than others, a man who of God can do finer things than we of coarser fibre. As a student in college in taking his evening strolls he felt that he could never walk beyond a given point. He could not bring himself to pass it. At that point his energy seemed to fail him. One day he told it all in confidence to his dearest friend. The friend said, “Give me your arm; lean hard on me,” and leaning on that arm he walked past the point in victory. We are going back to our work again on the morrow, and what will we make of it—success or failure!

Back to the same old round of duty, to meet the same old faces, to do the same dull tasks of yesterday, to the same place where perhaps we failed yesterday. But if we are working along the line of duty, if we are engaged in the work for which we are adapted, then that is Christ’s call to us for deeper consecration, for a more thorough application of all our powers. Let us remember that we are under orders, that Christ goes with us, and he who works daily and hourly under the inspiration and consciousness of the divine presence and divine help will never go down, will never wholly fail, but will be crowned with victory at last. Over such a life the divine hand will write “Success” in golden letters when he sums up life’s total. “Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught.” To strive with God is to succeed.

He cast his net at morn where fishers toiled,
At eve he drew it empty to the shore;
He took the diver’s plunge into the sea
But thence, within his hand no pearl he bore.
He ran a race but never reached his goal;
He sped an arrow but he missed his aim;
He slept at last beneath a simple stone
With no achievements carved about his name.
Men called it failure; but for my own part
I dare not use that word; for what if Heaven
Shall question,—ere its judgments shall be read,
Not, “Hast thou won!” but only, “Hast Thou striven!”

Source: The Homiletic Review – Volume 82 published 1921

The Majesty of the Ocean; by Peregrinus Proteus

ANCIENT SEA TERMS

The Majesty of the Ocean; by Peregrinus Proteus

There is society where none intrude!
By the deep sea, and music in its roar.

I Know of nothing, in the whole compass of Byron’s varied productions, which equals, in sublimity of conception and vividness of coloring, his portraitures of the ocean. Though, for the most part, the bold and masterly touches of genius are displayed in everything which came from his hand, yet, when his imagination fixes upon the “dark-blue sea,” he appears to surpass all other poets. As you muse over his immortal sketches, in the hush of midnight and by the waning lamp, the wild note of the sea-bird and the low murmur of whispering waters and their silvery light—or the death-shriek of the drowning mariner, and the roar of billows, together with the lurid and appalling wave-flash of the reflected lightning, break in upon the silence and dimness of your chamber. Time and space are annihilated by the magic of his numbers, and you feel yourself snatched away to the far-off sea, and regaled by its fresh, cool breezes as you go bounding over its glorious expanse. He was emphatically the poet of the ocean, for the proudest march of his genius was upon its “mountain waves.” He appears to have possessed a delight in its wild scenes, amounting almost to a passionate fondness. In his boyhood, seated on some retired crag, he hung over it, hour after hour of the still summer evenings, and felt, in the excitement of his glowing fancy, a yearning towards it; and when in after years the ties which held him to his country were severed, he flew to its trackless solitudes as to a refuge and a home. Like a proud vessel, which, after having been becalmed and ingloriously confined in some narrow bay, has gained the broad deep and the rushing gale, the indignant bard swept forth in the buoyancy of freedom, rejoicing as the breeze freshened, and exulting in the rudest commotion of the elements. At that stirring hour he could “laugh to flee away” even from the land of his fathers, for in the thrill of his emotions there was less of sadness than of joy. I can see him in imagination, as he strode the deck, now soothing the sorrows of his little page, and now sweeping his deep-toned lyre as he poured his farewell to the receding shores, and a welcome to the waves that came dashing onward from the far stretch of the seaward horizon. The void in his heart, which no father’s love and no mother’s endearing tenderness had preoccupied with images of parental affection, and which had been widening from his boyhood by the death or estrangement of early associates, was now filled with the beauty and stirring majesty of the great deep. The loneliness that brooded like a dark spirit over his melancholy bosom was dispelled for a season by the strange grandeur of the prospects around him; and in the romance of poetical enthusiasm, he regarded the ocean as a living and intelligent existence. As he bent over the prow in the gentle moonlight, he discoursed with it as with a friend, and, in its billowy commotions, he gazed upon it with mingled reverence and joy. And who has not experienced such sensations, even when far away from the ocean, while his thoughts were hovering over its azure domains? I remember what a novel and indescribable feeling used to steal upon me when a boy, whenever I fell in with Virgil’s description of the sea. 1 Lad never been beyond the mountain boundaries of my native valley— never enjoyed even a remote prospect of the sublime object of his inspiration, and, therefore, my young fancy was introduced in those passages, to a fairy world, and left free to expatiate, amid the glorious imagery of the Mantuan bard. After reading of Palinurus or the sweet-voiced Sirens, I have gazed at the little lake, which lies embosomed in the green hills near my father’s cottage, till my eyes grew dim, and its rippling surface seemed to stretch away to a misty and limitless expanse, whilst the sweep of the winds, among the rough crags and pine-forests of the neighboring mountains, uttered to my imagination the voice of the sounding deep. But how far short of reality, both in grandeur and beauty, did I find the conceptions of fancy, when I beheld the object itself, some years after. My first view of it was on a clear, but gusty afternoon of autumn. The winds had been abroad for many hours; and as I looked seaward from the high promontory, and beheld the long rough surges rushing towards me, and listened to their wild roar as they were flung back from the caverned battlements at my feet, I felt as if the pillars of the universe were shaken around me, and stood awed and abased before the majesty of excited nature. Since then, I have been on lofty precipices, while the thunder-cloud was bursting below me—have leaned over the trembling brink of Niagara, and walked within its awful chambers, but the thrill of that moment has never returned. The feeling of awe, however, gradually gave place to an intense but pleasing emotion, and I longed to spring away from the tame and trodden earth, to that wild, mysterious world, whose strange scenes broke so magnificently upon my vision. No wonder that our first roving impulses are towards the ocean. No wonder that the romance and adventurous spirit of youth deems lightly of hardship and peril, when aroused by its stirring presentations. There is something so winning in the multiplied superstitions of its hardy wanderers—something so fascinating in its calm beauty, and so animating in its stormy recklessness, that the ties of country and kindred sit looser at our hearts, as curiosity whispers of its unseen wonders. In after years, when the bloom of existence has lost much of its brightness, when curiosity has become enervated, and the powers of the imagination palsied, where do we sooner return to renew their former pleasing excitement, than to our remembered haunts by the ocean? We leave behind us all the splendor and magnificence of art, all the voluptuous gratifications of society—we break from the banquet and the dance, and fly away to the solitary cliffs, where the sea-bird hides her nest. There the cares, perplexities, and rude jostlings of opposing interests are for a while forgotten. There the turmoil of human intercourse disquiets no longer. There the sweat and dust of the crowded city are dispelled as the cool sea-breeze comes gently athwart our feverish brow. In the exhilaration of the scene, the blood gathers purer at the heart— its pulse-beat is softer, and we feel once more a newness of life, amounting almost to a transport. Delightful remembrances, that lie buried up under the dross of the past, are reanimated, and the charm, the peace, and the freshness of life’s morning innocence again finds in our bosom a welcome and a home. The elastic spring of boyhood is in our step as we chase the receding wave along the white beach, or leap wildly into its glassy depths. In the low, billowy murmur that steals out upon the air, our ear catches the pleasant, but long unheard music of other years, like the remembered voice of a departed companion; and while leaning over some beetling crag, glorious visions pass thronging before our eyes, as, in fancy, we rove through the coral groves, where the mermaids have their emerald bower, or gaze at the hidden beauties, the uncoveted gems, and the glittering argosies that repose amid the stilly waters. The soul goes forth, as it were, to the hallowed and undefiled temples of nature, to be purified of its earthly contaminations. She takes to herself wings, and flies away to the “uttermost parts of the sea,” and even there she hears the voice of the Divinity, witnesses the manifestations of his power, experiences the kind guardianship of his presence, and returns cheered and invigorated to renew her weary pilgrimage.

The ocean is a world by itself, presenting few analogies, either in form or scenery, with the continents it embraces. It seems to stand aloof from the dusty and beaten paths of human ambition in the dignity of conscious independence. Man may bring desolation upon the green earth, or dwarf its gigantic pinnacles to the stature of his groveling conceptions, but over the beauty and majesty of the ocean he has no power. He may mine the solid mountains, dig up buried cities upon which the lava has moldered for centuries, and fix his habitation in their silent courts, but he cannot fathom the abysses of the deep, or walk the lonely streets of St. Ubes or Euphaemia. He may visit the sepulchers of the first patriarchs, he may lift the cerements from the queens of the Ptolomies, but he cannot go down to the ocean-grave of his yesterday’s friend to close his eyes or cast the wild-flower upon his uncoffined bosom. I do not know whether we are capable of forming a true Platonic attachment for an inanimate object, but I sometimes believe that we may. The shrine in which friendship has treasured up its cherished keepsakes, the ring that sparkled on the finger, and the ringlet that once shaded the brow of the departed—whatever, indeed, serves as a remembrance of the absent, or a memento of the dead, speaks eloquently of the existence of such a passion. The home of our childhood has a spell of gladness for our hearts, long after the beloved ones who formed its endearments have passed for ever from its portal. In the devotion of the idolater, also, there seems too much of reality to be the calculation of hypocrisy. The rivers, the hills, and the deep forests have their worshippers; the sun and moon listen to the hymn of the Gheber who regards them with the expression of affection and reverence. With feeling akin to these, the astrologer gazes at the star, whose benignant influence, like an invisible guardian, has, in his belief, wrought out whatever there has been of happiness or prosperity in the unfolding of his destiny. Nor has the ocean lacked its admiring votaries. Byron, as I have before remarked, loved it with a poet’s fondness. He rejoiced in the “[Apparent terras,] coelum undique, et undique pontus;[Land is no longer seen,] heaven on all sides and on all sides the sea]” a striking image of his far-reaching mind. The imaginative Shelley passed his brightest hours upon its waters, and at last found a welcome grave in their hidden bosom. I once heard a romantic story of a seaman whose attachment for the ocean was peculiarly striking. He became acquainted with it when young, and, after having spent many years amidst its scenes, he ceased from his wanderings and returned to his native village. The remaining companions of his early days kindly welcomed him back, while his old, fond mother clung tenderly and with tears, to her rough, but warm-hearted son. For a while he forgot the delights of his wild rovings, in the pleasing associations which filled his mind, and in narrating to the listening villagers the wonders of the deep and his own perilous, yet congenial adventures. At length he grew silent and evidently discontented, and the expression of delight passed from his bronzed and weather-beaten countenance. All perceived the change, and all strove to dispel his hidden despondency; yet still he continued melancholy and ill at ease. At last, his mother, on entering his chamber one morning, found an affectionate farewell written on an old chart and directed to herself, with the collected earnings of his years of peril. But the endeared inmate had gone. He took his way back to the ocean, and wandered from port to port, but, broken down by age and hardship, he could find no employ among its adventurers. With a heart aching from the dull monotony, the tame, listless quietude of the land, he retired to a small hamlet on the coast, and, with the assistance of some kind fishermen, built him a little bark. Once more he committed himself to the guidance of the rough elements, and once more the look of gladness settled on the hard features of the old sailor. Alone, but not solitary, he went forth upon the deep, and for many years after, the floating home of the ocean hermit was seen at all seasons in the Caribbean Archipelago. No one, not even the ruthless pirate, molested him in his quiet wanderings, but all greeted him with a hearty salutation, and all received a warm Godspeed in return. During the day, he sailed gently along the luxuriant islands of the tropics, singing some wild old ballad of the sea, as he cast his fishing-lines into its sparkling depths; and at night, after having filled his can from the fresh spring, and laid in a supply of fruits, he moored his little vessel in some calm bay, and slept as soundly as under the roof-tree of his mother’s cottage. Time passed on, and severer infirmities began to steal upon his once vigorous frame, so that it was with difficulty he could now provide the common necessaries of life. At length, some soldiers, seeing his boat in the vicinity of their fort, went down to the beach to welcome their old acquaintance. Slowly and regularly it drifted ashore, when they found its debilitated possessor stretched insensible, in his narrow cabin. They conveyed the famished man to their quarters, and used the best means in their power for his recovery. He was restored to reason, seemed grateful for their kind attentions, and for a while appeared convalescent. One evening, however, after one of those tremendous hurricanes so common in those latitudes, the roar of the sea swelled up into his silent apartment and fell upon his ear. In the absence of the attendants, he crept languidly from his couch and crawled to the terrace, which overlooked a wide extent of ocean. The winds had died away, not a cloud dotted the bright azure of the horizon, and the moon and stars were looking peacefully down upon the troubled deep. Far as the eye could reach, all was one wide, awful commotion. The old mariner bent forward upon the parapet, as if to spring away toward the scenes he loved so well. Before him, on the strand, lay the wreck of his little shallop, and a groan escaped him as he recognized its shattered form; but he knew that his wanderings were ended, and he sent his swimming glance far out upon the waters. And there they found him, his gray head resting on his shoulder, his withered arms thrown forth upon the wall, and his eyes fixed intently upon the deep; but his spirit had passed away in the transport of that fond, lingering, farewell gaze.

Gain a Greater Understanding of History by Joseph Stevens Buckminster

JosephStevensBuckminster GilbertStuart

As I have said “History is not simply a record of man’s accomplishments. Even more, History is the story / record of God’s interaction with man. It is indeed His Story” ~ CJD

Gain a Greater Understanding of History; Value of Religious Faith by Joseph Stevens Buckminster (1784 – 1812)

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Having considered the objects, and the reasonableness of religious faith, it now remains to say something of its Importance. The value of religious faith principally results from two circumstances—from the fears it excites, and from the consolations it affords.

In the ordinary conduct of government, and to the well-being of society, some kind of faith is essential. Belief in the superintendence of invisible powers is not peculiar to religion. It is found in every man, who conscientiously submits to the government under which he lives; for how few of the subjects of any extensive empire have ever seen their rulers? Their authority, their edicts, their measures, nay, their very existence, are almost exclusively objects of faith. Suppose the assassin were to fear nothing but the instrument of punishment, or the thief were permitted to demand a strict demonstration of the authority of the officer who arrested him, think you society would long sustain the consequences of so great incredulity? Every man would become his own avenger, and we should revert to the barbarous independence of universal democracy. If, too, the sober part only of the community should require, that every law should be promulgated in their hearing, or that their rulers should constantly live under their ocular inspection, it is easy to foresee, that the affairs of human society would fall into the utmost confusion. We must, therefore, in the ordinary state of society, live, as seeing those that are invisible.

The fear, which faith awakens, is the foundation of the most necessary prudence. It is faith, which warns us of the invisible and approaching misfortunes, to which we are daily exposed; it is faith, which keeps up a continual, and sometimes painful interest in the dangers, which threaten the community. Without this we should rush as inconsiderately into the abode of foreign pestilence, as we now walk the streets of our own city; and be as unprepared for an approaching war, as for an impending earthquake. If we were to wait, till we could satisfy our own personal experience, in regard to some of the most common evils of life, we should find, that our ruin was accomplished, [before] the remedy was provided. The life of children is a continual exercise of faith. The prudence of parents is employed in foreseeing dangers, which the short-sightedness of the child must believe upon authority. Without filial confidence, which is only another name for faith, not one of the generations of men could hardly have reached the maturity of manhood; each successive race would profit nothing from the experience of its predecessors; and even if it were possible to continue the human species without a principle of faith, the world would have remained, to the present day, in a state of infantile ignorance, exposure and imbecility. What then! is it of so much importance, that the years of minority should be so carefully provided with this principle to secure it against the evils of present inexperience; and is it of none, that the full-grown understanding should be admonished of the alarming disclosures, which another world will make of a retributive power? Is it of no importance, that the conscience of the wicked should be awakened, before his senses tell him, that he is in anguish? Shall the narrow policy of civil government, and the feebleness of temporal punishments, be left to maintain, unsupported, the order of society? Is it of so much consequence, that, while he lives here, man should be aware of his mortality, and be provided against death, the inevitable and universal lot of mortal creatures; and of none, that he should suspect his immortality, and extend his views to the tribunal of his Judge? Shall man tremble so much at the thought of dying; and know nothing of the dread of punishment? Is it of no importance for the selfish man to know, that, by the interested pleasures in which he is absorbed, he is surely defeating his own aims, however successful they may have been? Shall the indolent, the luxurious, the dead in sensuality, the avaricious, the hard-hearted, go on accumulating wrath, and hardening their consciences by unbelief? Because we cannot be transported to the regions of future suffering, and witness the intensity of the torment, shall we rush, with all our sins upon our head, into that community of woe, and learn first by experience what we would not receive upon credit? Thank God! that such is the want, which individuals and society feel of a principle like this, that the imagination supplies it, where the reason cannot attain to undoubting conviction. Legislators have always invented something, like what revelation discloses; and the barbarous faith of the early ages has supplied, in almost every country, something, which has served the purposes of providence, till the cultivated mind was ready for the fullness of God’s communications.

In the second place, the value of faith may be estimated from the consolations it affords.

Who would look back upon the history of the world with the eye of incredulity, after having once read it with the eye of faith? To the man of faith it is the story of God’s operations. To the unbeliever it is only the record of the strange sports of a race of agents as uncontrolled as they are unaccountable. To the man of faith every portion of history is part of a vast plan, conceived ages ago in the mind of Omnipotence, which has been fitted precisely to the period it was intended to occupy. The whole series of events forms a magnificent and symmetrical fabric to the eye of pious contemplation; and, though the dome be in the clouds, and the top, from its loftiness, be indiscernible to mortal vision, yet the foundations are so deep and solid, that we are sure they are intended to support something permanent and grand. To the skeptic, all the events of all the ages of the world are but a scattered crowd of useless and indigested materials. In his mind all is darkness, all is incomprehensible. The light of prophecy illuminates not to him the obscurity of ancient annals. He sees in them neither design nor operation, neither tendencies nor conclusions. To him the wonderful knowledge of one people is just as interesting as the desperate ignorance of another. In the deliverance which God has sometimes wrought for the oppressed, he sees nothing but the fact; and in the oppression and decline of haughty empires, nothing but the common accidents of national fortune. Going about to account for events according to what he calls general laws, he never for a moment considers, that all laws, whether physical, political or moral, imply a legislator, and are contrived to serve some purpose. Because he cannot always, by his short-sighted vision, discover the tendencies of the mighty events of which this earth has been the theatre, he looks on the drama of existence around him as proceeding without a plan. Is that principle, then, of no importance, which raises man above what his eyes see or his ears hear at present, and show him the vast chain of human events, fastened eternally to the throne of God, and returning, after embracing the universe, again to link itself to the footstool of Omnipotence?

Would you know the value of this principle of faith to the bereaved? Go, and follow a corpse to the grave. See the body deposited there, and hear the earth thrown in upon all that remains of your friend. Return now, if you will, and brood over the lesson which your senses have given you, and derive from it what consolation you can. You have learned nothing but an unconsoling fact. No voice of comfort issues from the tomb. All is still there, and blank, and lifeless, and has been so for ages. You see nothing but bodies dissolving and successively mingling with the clods which cover them, the grass growing over the spot, and the trees waving in sullen majesty over this region of eternal silence. And what is there more? Nothing,—Come, Faith, and people these deserts! Come, and reanimate these regions of forgetfulness! Mothers! take again your children to your arms, for they are living. Sons! your aged parents are coming forth in the vigor of regenerated years. Friends! behold, your dearest connections are waiting to embrace you. The tombs are burst. Generations long since in slumbers are awakening. They are coming from the east and the west, from the north and from the south, to constitute the community of the blessed.

But it is not in the loss of friends alone, that faith furnishes consolations which are inestimable. With a man of faith not an affliction is lost, not a change is unimproved. He studies even his own history with pleasure, and finds it full of instruction. The dark passages of his life are illuminated with hope; and he sees, that although he has passed through many dreary defiles, yet they have opened at last into brighter regions of existence. He recalls, with a species of wondering gratitude, periods of his life, when all its events seemed to conspire against him. Hemmed in by straitened circumstances, wearied with repeated blows of unexpected misfortunes, and exhausted with the painful anticipation of more, he recollects years, when the ordinary love of life could not have retained him in the world. Many a time he might have wished to lay down his being in disgust, had not something more than the senses provide us with, kept up the elasticity of his mind. He yet lives, and has found that light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart. The man of faith discovers some gracious purpose in every combination of circumstances. Wherever he finds himself, he knows that he has a destination—he has, therefore, a duty. Every event has, in his eye, a tendency and an aim. Nothing is accidental, nothing without purpose, nothing unattended with benevolent consequences. Everything on earth is probationary, nothing ultimate. He is poor—perhaps his plans have been defeated—he finds it difficult to provide for the exigencies of life—sickness is permitted to invade the quiet of his household—long confinement imprisons his activity, and cuts short the exertions on which so many depend—something apparently unlucky mars his best plans —new failures and embarrassments among his friends present themselves, and throw additional obstruction in his way—the world looks on and says, all these things are against him. Some wait coolly for the hour when he shall sink under the complicated embarrassments of his cruel fortune. Others, of a kinder spirit, regard him with compassion, and wonder how he can sustain such a variety of woe. A few there are, a very few, I fear, who can understand something of the serenity of his mind, and comprehend something of the nature of his fortitude. There are those, whose sympathetic piety can read and interpret the characters of resignation on his brow. There are those, in fine, who have felt the influence of faith.

In this influence there is nothing mysterious, nothing romantic, nothing of which the highest reason may be ashamed. It shows the Christian his God, in all the mild majesty of his parental character. It shows you God, disposing in still and benevolent wisdom the events of every individual’s life, pressing the pious spirit with the weight of calamity to increase the elasticity of the mind, producing characters of unexpected worth by unexpected misfortune, invigorating certain virtues by peculiar probations, thus breaking the fetters which bind us to temporal things, and

“From seeming evil still educing good,
And better thence again, and better still,
In infinite progression.”

When the sun of the believer’s hopes, according to common calculations, is set, to the eye of faith it is still visible. When much of the rest of the world is in darkness, the high ground of faith is illuminated with the brightness of religious consolation.

Come now, my incredulous friends, and follow me to the bed of the dying believer. Would you see in what peace a Christian can die? Watch the last gleams of thought which stream from his dying eyes. Do you see anything like apprehension? The world, it is true, begins to shut in. The shadows of evening collect around his senses. A dark mist thickens, and rests upon the objects which have hitherto engaged his observation. The countenances of his friends become more and more indistinct. The sweet expressions of love and friendship are no longer intelligible. His ear wakes no more at the well-known voice of his children, and the soothing accents of tender affection die away unheard, upon his decaying senses. To him the spectacle of human life is drawing to its close, and the curtain is descending, which shuts out this earth, its actors, and its scenes. He is no longer interested in all that is done under the sun. O! that I could now open to you the recesses of his soul; that I could reveal to you the light, which darts into the chambers of his understanding. He approaches that world which he has so long seen in faith. The imagination now collects its diminished strength, and the eye of faith opens wide. Friends! do not stand, thus fixed in sorrow, around this bed of death. Why are you so still and silent? Fear not to move—you cannot disturb the last visions which enchant this holy spirit. Your lamentations break not in upon the songs of seraphs, which enwrap his hearing in ecstasy. Crowd, if you choose, around his couch—he heeds you not—already he sees the spirits of the just advancing together to receive a kindred soul. Press him not with importunities; urge him not with alleviations. Think you he wants now these tones of mortal voices—these material, these gross consolations’ No! He is going to add another to the myriads of the just, that are every moment crowding into the portals of heaven! He is entering on a nobler life. He leaves you—he leaves you, weeping children of mortality, to grope about a little longer among the miseries and sensualities of a worldly life. Already he cries to you from the regions of bliss. Will you not join him there? Will you not taste the sublime joys of faith? There are your predecessors in virtue; there, too, are places left for your contemporaries. There are seats for you in the assembly of the just made perfect, in the innumerable company of angels, where is Jesus, the mediator of the new covenant, and God, the judge of all.