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lonely relic of the past. Like a bleached and faded flower amid the frosts of autumn, whose withered stalk leans on some friendly prop, but soon must fall to rise no more, so shalt thou sink beneath the weight of years, and slumber in the grave.
Aged and care-worn matron, bowed down by infirmity and grief, thou art, with tottering footsteps, descending to the vale of death, while the spirit within, chastened and purified by thine earthly trials, is pluming its wings for a heavenward flight; like the bending flowers of autumn, which, as they sink to the earth, send upwards, on their downy wings, the ripened seeds of fragrance and of beauty, to grow and blossom where fairer skies and brighter suns shall smile upon them.
Man of high ambition and a gifted mind, Death shall this year smite thee down. Thou hast drawn from the depths of science and philosophy no magic charm, with which to soothe or turn him from thee. The tongue of the eloquent has no power with him. Rank, and titles, and honors, awe and check him not. Gifted genius, commanding talents, wealth with its trappings, beauty with its smiles, music with its charms, art with its triumphs, wisdom with its trophies, and high ambition with its laureled brow; none-none of these can stay the claims of Death, or turn him from his ceaseless work of ruin and decay.
Minister of Christ, with the Gospel armor on, and doing service for the King of kings, borne down by sickness, or by wasting anxious care and toil, thou shalt droop and die. In Heaven thy works shall follow thee; and those whom thou hast turned from sin shall be as starry gems in thy crown of glory, and of life forever.
And will none of you, my dear friends, who are listening to these words of serious admonition, this year die ?-or, perchance, he who is now addressing them to you? Aye, die, indeed, some of us must and will; some of us, too, who least expect it; with most of strength, and life, and vigor; of present promise and of future hope. And when thus called to pass away, what a fleeting and unreal dream will life have been, to those even who have lived longest on the earth.
To the aged man, bowed by the weight of years, and sinking to the grave, it seems but as yesterday when he stood, a joyous prattler, at his mother's knee, or mingled in the sports of childhood and of youth. But a few short years have shorn him of his strength, unnerved his manly frame; and now he sinks beneath the chilling wind of death, as the lofty forest tree, aged and decayed, falls before the raging blast.
To the matron, too, whose tottering footsteps tread the vale of death, how like a dream have been the years since the morning sun of hope and joy lighted up, with rainbow brightness, the mid-day and decline of life before her. Then, with elastic step, and graceful form, and radiant beauty, each passing breeze
wafted to her the glad incense of admiring, loving hearts; but now, alas! withered and faded, bowed down with infirmity and years, she falls to rise no more; like the last flowers of autumn, chilled by the frost, and pressed beneath the falling snow.
And now, in closing, let me ask, Are we living as we should do, did we know that we this year must die?-with our house and hearts in order, and our lights trimmed and burning, waiting
joyfully waiting for the coming of the Lord, for the summons of death, for the bliss of heaven? If so, happy, indeed, are we; for us, to live is Christ, and to die, endless and unspeakable、 gain.
But if, alas! we hy not made our peace with God, how ought we, in view of the nearness and certainty of death, to make haste, and delay not; to flee from the wrath to come, and lay hold of the hope set before us in the Gospel! In view, too, of the fearful perils of eternal death, so near to many thoughtless, guilty souls, well may we loudly cry,-Stay, O insulted Spirit, stay the winged messenger of death; and, O Recording Angel, stay thy pen, that thus these sinners may repent, and all their names be written in the Book of Life.
BY REV. L. P. LEDOUX,
PASTOR OF THE THIRD PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH, RICHMOND, VA.
THE DIFFICULTIES OF A DEATH-BED CONVERSION.
"And the door was shut."-MATT. XXV. 10.
How often did Christ direct the thoughts of his hearers to the judgment! Not less than three times in this chapter, the closing part of what may be termed his farewell discourse to sinners, does he remind us of that great day. By the parable of the virgins, he would impress upon us the importance of being prepared to meet him at his second coming. By that of the talents, he would prepare us for the reckoning consequent on his return. In his minute account of the process of this reckoning, and his description of the scenes of that great and notable day, he would prepare us to hear our irrevocable sentence, after this reckoning shall have been duly made. The whole is to be regarded as a
summons to us for a due and timely preparation to meet our judge.
Men, however, are never in haste to do what to them is disagreeable. We know that every undertaking in which the heart is not interested is a difficult undertaking; and every real difficulty becomes less formidable by an increase of desire in the heart to surmount it. It is a clearly understood principle, in moral as well as physical science, that the stream naturally rises no higher than its source. What is an unpleasant duty to one individual, may be a delightful privilege to another, and to the *same person at another time. We not only walk, but run, in the way of duty, when our hearts are "enlarged."
These statements are verified by the history of efforts to persuade men to prepare to meet their God, by repentance towards him, and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ. This repentance, involving as it does real sorrow for, and the immediate and hearty forsaking of sin, is something which is by no means agreeable to the carnal mind. If it were, alas! we should not hear Sinai threaten the soul that sinneth to so little purpose. The persuasive invitations of Christ would not meet such cold indifference. The demands of reason and conscience would be heeded; and not in vain would the anxious pastor go from house to house, entreating sinners to repent, or enter his place of prayer and toil, to prepare his pulpit messages.
With every argument, every motive, on his side; the word and providence of God; the sinner's own experience, his reason and his conscience, added to his own power to enforce truth,the pastor is too often led to mourn and weep in secret places, that there are always some of his congregation whom he cannot persuade to seek first the kingdom of God. Too often is he turned off with the plea for a little more sleep and a little more slumber in spiritual death. The language of the natural heart is "Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee." Many, indeed, have a secret purpose that it shall not be convenient to repent until a dying hour. To that hour they look with a purpose, more or less clearly defined, that then they will make their peace with God.
My hearers, you will bear me witness that you have often been urged in this place to make timely preparation for death. Of the necessity of such a preparation you profess to have no doubt. You need no revelation from above to teach you that it is appointed unto all men once to die; and the Scriptures constantly hold up to your view that, after this death, there is the judgment. You are neither ignorant of these facts, nor doubtful as to their reality. And yet it is possible that some of you are secretly intending to delay this preparation until summoned to your death-bed. But have you really weighed the difficulties of such a late repentance? Have you ever balanced the proba
bilities against the genuineness of such a conversion? Does not the text before us, in connection with the parable from which it is taken, present you a most solemn warning? Ah! my friends, some of you may put off this matter until it is too late-till the door is shut! It is proposed here to present some thoughts on the DIFFICULTIES IN THE WAY OF A DEATH-BED CONVERSION, with the view, if possible, of dissuading those of you who may be intending to delay your preparation for eternity till you are brought to press your death-bed pillow.
I. The Scriptures nowhere, and in no way, encourage such a hope of repentance. On the contrary, they everywhere condemn this delay, as unwise and wicked. They do not, indeed, remove a death-bed preparation beyond a possibility. They do intimate that some may enter the kingdom at the eleventh hour. I know that they offer pardon to those whose sins are of crimson dye; that they point us to a blood that cleanseth from all sin,-to a fountain opened in Jerusalem, from which the idolator is not turned away,-at which the murderer even may wash his bloody hands, in which the thief may be made to rejoice, and into which the adulterer and fornicator may be plunged, and cleansed from all their filthiness. And yet, notwithstanding all this, they pile up a huge and frightful mountain of probabilities against such a late repentance. Search them, and not one command do you hear them give with reference to the future; rather all are given with the view of present and immediate obedience. All their directions and exhortations are also given to secure present attention. "Now,"-" to-day," is their language. Their promises, too, so rich and so full, are all made to arrest and fasten attention upon the importance of making an immediate preparation for that great and terrible day of the Lord, in which it was declared that "God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil." These promises are, even with partial discrimination, made to the young; as if the Scriptures would carefully guard against the very feeling of procrastination under consideration.
More than this, they use fearful language against this delay, pointing us to the possibility of fatally grieving away the Holy Spirit, and of being delivered over to a reprobate mind, as a consequence, of having our candlestick removed forever out of its place. How terrible the language of the compassionate Jesus to doomed Jerusalem,-" If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong to thy peace! But now they are hid from thine eyes." Elsewhere we read, "Israel would none of me; so I gave them up to their own heart's lust." "Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; but ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof, I also will laugh at
your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh." Again: "If we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries." Such language as this certainly claims the serious attention of the man who is intending to repent on a death-bed. It ought to make the procrastinator pause and think that the door may be shut, before he is ready to apply for admission.
The general aspect in which the Bible presents to us the successful Christian, condemns this procrastination as foolish and dangerous. It is related of Napoleon, that, on one occasion, a soldier of his applied to him for a marshal's staff. His laconic and suggestive reply was, "It is not I who make marshals; it is victory." This answer is in keeping with the general view presented in the Scriptures of the man whom Christ will crown at the day of judgment. The prize is held out to the successful racer; to him who endures to the end; to him who, through divine grace, keeps his crown. The Christian stands before us as a soldier, armed with all the implements of war, offensive and defensive. His loins are girt about with truth; righteousness is his breast-plate; his feet are shod with the preparation of the Gospel; his head is protected by the helmet of salvation. In one hand he holds the shield of faith, with the other he wields the sword of the Spirit. Behold him thus equipped! He now receives intimation that "to him that overcometh,"-to the victor alone-will a crown be given. He must fight. He must fight a good fight. He must fight desperately; fight perseveringly; fight to conquer. He must resist unto blood. It is victory or nothing. This battle is, indeed, unattended by the flashing of steel, the booming of cannon, and the tread of visible armies, marshaling and hastening to mortal combat; but every Christian knows that it is none the less real, none the less fearful and important in its results. Such a battle did the zealous Apostle Paul wage. He fought man, and he fought beast. He fought the world, the flesh, and the devil. He fought Jews and Gentiles, combined and single-handed; enemies without, and foes within; attacking sin everywhere; putting the gripe of his irresistible logic upon time-honored systems of false philosophy; scattering the excuses of men to the winds; making kings tremble in their seat of power; and yet keeping under his own body, lest, after doing all this, he himself "should be a castaway." The truth is, the Christian is saved with great difficulty; the righteous are "scarcely" saved. To me, that has always been a touching passage of Scripture, found in the Apocalypse, in which one of the "elders about the throne" is represented as suspending his delightful song, to converse with John, who, permitted, in a vision, to listen to the swelling chorus, and behold the shining