Get Thee Hence
Many times over the years, the Lord has chosen to begin to speak to my spirit about a verse of scripture, or give some insight into a situation, and prompt me to go looking in the bible to find and search out the deeper meanings of what the Holy Spirit is conversing with me. When He chooses to speak to my heart like this, it is often humorous, and I've learned that He does this to also reveal to me his own sense of humor, and His personality-which is full of inspiration, brightness and keen intelligence.
This morning, as I went about cleaning my house, giving the bathroom a needed disinfecting, and hauling the vacuum cleaner from room to room, these verses came to my mind, and the Lord gave some insight. Some of it was a re-learning overview of teachings I'd done before, but also some was fresh insight.
In this verse, in 1Kings ch. 17, Elijah is given a command from the Lord to go into hiding:
1Ki 17:2 And the word of the LORD came unto him, saying,
1Ki 17:3 Get thee hence, and turn thee eastward, and hide thyself by the brook Cherith, that is before Jordan.
A brief review of this-Elijah had just prophesied to Ahab that there would be no rain for the next three years. This kind of declaration will gain you no friends. Ahab was king of the land, and Jezebel was his wife-and we can read between the lines that they were not happy with this man of God. If possible, he would be after his life. As Elijah obeyed the Lord, God undertook for his provision and protection, from their violent intentions.
Elijah did not know all that was going to transpire within the coming years, but His life was surrendered, and his trust and faith was solid. He had a heart of a soldier-a soldier of the Lord. His spirit was vexed by the idol worship of Baal and Ashtaroth, that was throughout the land, and the false prophets under Ahab and Jezebel. He was ready, and would have confronted this wickedness then, but that confrontation was several years ahead-and the time frame was not right for it yet.
Several lessons can be learned in this event. A few will be listed here, but I've learned that there really is no bottom to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in teaching the word of God. This teaching could be broken down, and gone into a depth that could take weeks. This is just a tid-bit.
1. God's servants must learn to take one step at a time, in faith. The prayer of faith in this situation and our attitude should be to look into the face of our Father and say "If I take this direction-that will take me into hardship, what shall I do next?" We surrender our life, take the step, obey what we've been commissioned to do- and look steadily onward; stop along the way, and seek His face-and the right direction, as we go.
2. God's servant must learn the value of the hidden life in God. There is no better place than to be in a one-on-one fellowship, and relationship with the Lord. We learn our smallness, our nothingness, that without Him-we can do nothing. Many before us, learned this. Moses-driven into the dessert, and as a shepherd-led to the mountain top-to encounter the burning bush-and the face of God. David, when pursued by Saul, deep in discouragement-"encouraged himself in the Lord". John the Baptist-his home was the desert, where he sought the voice, and face of God. Jesus-driven into the desert-to be tempted of the devil-and win. Paul-shut up in prison, no doubt the devil thought he had also shut his mouth-but no; with quill and scroll-we are taught what the Lord gave him, alone in the desert when he was first saved, years earlier; and the power of the gospel of Christ. Yes, there is great value-in the hidden life.
When God's servant goes hidden-he can count on the wolves taking full advantage-and rending them with their tongues, biting and devouring them, with slander/gossip/false accusations. Paul spoke of this in his encounter with Alexander the Coppersmith. When the devil is working in people, and they think your down, or in a ditch-many will try to finish you off. People expose themselves, and what's really inside them-when they think your gone for good.
But, like Paul, those who have learned the value of the hidden life-won't care what's said or done. Nothing they do or say can take away the peace, and solid assurance of the Presence of God in the servants life. When you are in the perfect will of God-this is freedom.
3. God's servants must learn to trust God, absolutely. That there is no limits to what He can do, the limits are in us. But, we are allowed to go through those seemingly impossible situations to stretch us, mold us, test us. God wants to see what's in us-and wants us to see what is really in us, also. Most people never really know themselves-can't abide seeing the truth of what is in their hearts and souls. Satan doesn't want us to ever see the truth of ourselves either-because he knows when we do-there's a good chance we will fall to our knees, and cry out to God for mercy. That's the last thing he wants.
There is greatness in us-but we are at war with our sin nature. The evil we do, stems from the first sin of rebellion, from Adam and Eve, and we've inherited that same nature-of wanting our own way. Rebellion has a continuous line-from our first parents all the way to us. The only thing that severs that connection-is the blood of Christ, which paid for our sins. If we confess our sins, and turn to Him, our sins are forgiven, and washed away, and we are redeemed. Then we begin a new life-and our walk of obedience comes from our love for Him, not from obligation.
4. Being hidden away does not guarantee a life of ease and prosperity-which many false teachers and prophets claim today. As Elijah stayed at the brook, the drought continued, and the brook dried up. Elijah had an ongoing relationship with God-and again, he heard a command for a new direction.
1Ki 17:9 Arise, get thee to Zarephath, which belongeth to Zidon, and dwell there: behold, I have commanded a widow woman there to sustain thee.
Here we see the continuing provision of God, and His protection. When difficulties come, it doesn't mean God's ability to provide has gone bankrupt. We can expect God to be in our tomorrow's-and whatever change that comes, He's already foreseen the event, and taken care of it-though it may be hidden from our sight. In learning this truth- our faith is exercised, and made stronger.
5. Regardless of where the trouble in our life comes from-we can learn to understand God's hand in it. He has allowed it, for our learning, and our good. It's how we appropriate our faith, and our decisions, that will make the difference. Ultimately, when we become exercised in looking up, seeking His will, direction and submit to His guidance-patience and trust become a solid foundation in our character, our souls, and is evident to a world steeped in chaos, and sin.
6. God's true prophets will speak what is given to them-regardless of the consequences. The last several years-God has allowed many false prophets to be exposed. These are the pillow prophets who will justify themselves when they are wrong, and twist scripture to suit their means. God has given these wolves a long rope-to let themselves be exposed. These are the ones who will not repent-won't admit when they've missed it, and listened to the wrong voice-the voice of the devil. These are the ones who've enjoyed many years of pomp, adulation from the people who've followed them from city to city-and gladly given them millions of dollars. They are professional "prophets" for hire-the real motive for their empty words is to hear the Ka-ching of the coins in the offering plate-and see the dollars dropped at the altar's of their platforms. When President Trump didn't get re-elected-the many false prophets who claimed he would-have used every trick in the book to cover themselves up-and the people still follow them-and still give them money. It's a sad commentary on this country, and the churches-empty, and abandoned.
7. Elijah's heart burned for righteousness. There is nothing said here, that tells us he was perfect. There are many gaps between years, and events that leaves room for questions/speculations, and asking ourselves what we would have done-if we were in his shoes. Of course he made mistakes, lost his temper, did things I am sure he needed to repent of occasionally. But, the foundation of this man's life was singlemindedness on God-a burning desire to know Him, and His ways, and follow Him-no matter where He led. His courage, and conviction, was of a man who was willing to give all his life, to obey the voice of the Lord. His pattern of life-revealed this.
May this be our goal, and desire, also.
“MY GOD SHALL SUPPLY EVERY NEED”
Php 4:11 Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.
Php 4:12 I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.
Php 4:13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.
The Apostle had been glad to receive the gifts of his friends, because these evidenced their earnest religious life. It was fruit that increased to their account. On his own part he had learned one of the greatest of lessons-contentment with whatever state he found himself in. This is a secret that can only be acquired by our experience of life in the will of God. When once the soul lives in God and finds its highest ideal in the fulfillment of His will, it becomes absolutely assured that all things which are necessary will be added. All things are possible to those who derive their daily strength from God.
It is wonderful to hear Paul say that he abounded, Php_4:18. A prison, a chain, a meager existence. The great ones of the world would have ridiculed the idea that any could be said to abound in such conditions. But they could not imagine the other hemisphere in which Paul lived; and out of his own blessed experience of what Christ could do, he promised that one’s every need would be supplied. God’s measure is his riches in glory; and his channel is Jesus Christ. Let us learn from Php_4:18 that every gift to God’s children which is given from a pure motive is acceptable to Him as a fragrant sacrifice. That reference in Php_4:22 shows that Paul was making good use of his stay in Rome. F.B. Meyer
Adding to the point, In the verses below, Paul reveals he has put the words of Jesus into practice:
Mat 6:30 Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?
Mat 6:31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?
Mat 6:32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.
Mat 6:33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
Mat 6:34 Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.
He had learned there was no need to lie sleepless at night, worrying about the next days provisions, or the supply of his needs. Whether for the body, mind, or heart. God knows what we need. If He has given us life-He will take responsibility for our length of days, and the provisions for our needs-if we trust in Him, and His care for us. Paul was settled in this and it brought him the stability, peace, and comfort he needed in his present situation, and condition.
This is freedom, it is victory from the bondages of lust, greed, envy, jealousies, and anxious discontent. He was secure in God. If He cares for the flowers and birds, God was able to care for Paul-regardless of his circumstances. God will do the same for you and I, if we let him.
Going further, we can gain this from these verses:
Seek ye first the kingdom of God. The promise is made that if we seek it first, and its righteousness, all earthly wants will be supplied. The condition demands,
1. That we seek the kingdom first in point of time. Some propose to secure a competence, and after they have gained it, they will serve God.
2. We must make it first in importance. Everything else must give way before its demands.
3. It must be first in our affections, have our whole hearts. We must "love the Lord our God with the whole heart" (Mat_22:37).
His righteousness. The righteousness that God bestows upon those who are in the Kingdom, Christ's righteousness, the forgiveness of sins in his name.
When we take these truths as our own, like Paul, we can endure any situation with solid peace, and as Paul-be content.
No Battle Scar
by Janet Martin
I stood at the gate, one I well knew about,
Since my youth I'd been taught how to get in or stay out,
When suddenly there appeared on the last stepping-stone
The most glorious Being I'd ever laid eyes on,
As His eyes beheld mine, both wonder and fear
Surged through my body, for 'twas certainly clear
That this indeed was Christ the Lord!
And I was drawn to my knees as in His presence I bowed,
His compassion and kindness so brilliantly shone
Down on that moment on the last stepping-stone
Then I lifted my head as I beheld His glory,
And I timidly said, "I believe the great story!
I believe that you love me and died for my sin,
And only through your blood will I ever get in
To the heavenly kingdom and the bliss that awaits
All who pass through these bright pearly gates",
I professed my devotion, gratitude and love,
My desire to be in His kingdom above,
I thanked Him for being my precious Savior,
And hoped in His sight, that I would find favor
Then long was the silence, there was pain in His look,
As He lifted His eyes from a most wondrous book,
There was sorrow in His gaze, and a tear in His smile,
He spoke with tenderness, as to a little child,
And His words made me drop my head in shame,
"There is hope", He said, "For all who call on my name,
For I am the Way, the Truth and Life,
I am your freedom and victory in strife,
Now you've laid down your armor, released from life's war,
But where, precious one, are your battle scars?
Where is the record of the second mile?
You wearily trod, because you were My child,
And someone needed a faithful friend,
A hand to hold so they could stand,
Where is the suffering? A soldier's price,
If you love me, then where is your sacrifice?
No mark of labor on your hands,
No wounds, no scars, no prison bands,
No dark hour where only I knew
The battle you fought as I carried you
Where is the sleepless night as you prayed?
For all the lost souls who carelessly strayed,
Where is the day where you hungrily fed?
From my living Word as your daily bread,
Where is that moment when you humbly laid down?
The pleasures of this life for a much richer crown,
If you are my child, as you say you are
Then surely there must be at least one battle scar,
To prove love's measure, to show love's price,
The mark of a soldier's sacrifice,
Then there was silence. How could I reply?
No battle scar for the One who had died!
Not only for me, but for each living soul,
Yet I'd been unwilling to yield Him my whole!
No battle scar for His love so great!
On this last stepping-stone it was now too late,
Too late to go back and to show Him again
That for His sacrifice, how truly thankful I am!
Too late, too late! I wept as He spoke,
Then suddenly, thankfully—I awoke!
2 Tim. 2:3-4
Therefore, endure hardness as a good soldier of the Jesus Christ; No man that wars entangles himself with the affairs of this life,
That he may please Him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.
"The hill country shall be thine" (Jos_17:18, RV).
There is always room higher up. When the valleys are full of Canaanites, whose iron chariots withstand your progress, get up into the hills, occupy the upper spaces. If you can no longer work for God, pray for those who can. If you cannot move earth by your speech, you may move Heaven. If the development of life on the lower slopes is impossible, through limitations of service, the necessity of maintaining others, and such-like restrictions, let it break out toward the unseen, the eternal, the Divine.
Faith can fell forests. Even if the tribes had realized what treasures lay above them, they would hardly have dared to suppose it possible to rid the hills of their dense forest-growth. But as God indicated their task, He reminded them that they had power enough. The visions of things that seem impossible are presented to us, like these forest-covered steeps, not to mock us, but to incite us to spiritual exploits which would be impossible unless God had stored within us the great strength of His own indwelling.
Difficulty is sent to reveal to us what God can do in answer to the faith that prays and works. Are you straitened in the valleys? Get away to the hills, live there; get honey out of the rock, and wealth out of the terraced slopes now hidden by forest. -- Daily Devotional Commentary
Got any rivers they say are uncrossable,
Got any mountains they say ’can’t tunnel through’?
We specialize in the wholly impossible,
Doing the things they say you can’t do.
-- Song of the Panama builders
When the mention of the literal hell is brought up, many want to change the subject, understandably so. Other's scoff, laugh, and claim there is no hell, and anybody who believes in a literal hell, has mental problems-they live in denial, to not let themselves contemplate that this may be their fate, and continue in the fantasy-that life will go on forever for them.
Jesus taught us in the book of Luke, of a poor man and a rich man, and the final destination for them. The poor beggar was carried away to paradise, in heaven. The rich man died also and found himself in hell. He found the horrific truth of the torments of that place-and the worst part of it-there is no exit. Jesus describes it in detail:
Luk 16:22 And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried;
Luk 16:23 And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
Luk 16:24 And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.
Luk 16:25 But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.
Luk 16:26 And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.
We get a detailed picture from some commentaries:
"so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot, neither can they pass to us that would come from thence; not that those in heaven can desire to go to those in hell; though those in hell, may wish to be in heaven; but the sense is, that by this irrevocable decree of God, the saints in heaven are eternally happy, and the wicked in hell eternally miserable: and this also agrees with the notions of the Jews (k), who represent it impossible: for a man, after he has descended into hell, to come up from thence any more: but as this may regard the Jews state of captivity and affliction, since the destruction of their city and temple, upon, and for their rejection of the Messiah; it may denote the impossibility of Christ's coming again upon the same errand he came on before, to be a Saviour of sinners, and a sacrifice for sin; and of the Jews believing in him, so long as they lie under the spirit of slumber, and are given up to judicial blindness and hardness of heart." John Gill comm
There is a great gulf fixed. It is permanent and impassable. There is no bridging over the abyss. Destiny has been decided in life. B.W. Johnson comm
From the Biblical Illustrator:
The parable of the rich man and Lazarus
I proceed to observe the vast difference between men’s conditions in this world and the other. The rich man prospered here, and was afterwards tormented. And it is very agreeable to the wisdom of God to make such a difference between men’s conditions in this world and the other, and that for these two reasons:
1. For the trying of men’s virtue.
2. In order to the recompensing of it. From this consideration of the difference between the condition of men in this world and the other, we may infer--
(1) That no man should measure his felicity or unhappiness by his lot in this world.
(2) We should not set too great a value upon the blessings of this life.
(3) We should not be excessively troubled if we meet with hardship and affliction here in this world, because those whom God designs for the greatest happiness hereafter may receive evil things here.
(4) We should do all things with a regard to our future and eternal state. (Archbishop Tillotson.)
The true valuation of man
In this life, under the managery of ordinary Providence, the worst men may abound with the good things of this life, and better men are sometimes shortened and want even the necessary conveniences of life. Of this I shall speak but a word, because it is a matter of easy observation. This David, Job, and Jeremiah stumbled at. That right, property, and title are founded in nature, not in grace. God gave the world and the things thereof unto the sons of men. If I would prove this to be mine, I must prove my title, not by miracle, but as the law and usage of the country where I dwell do state and determine; therefore I will say no more in this particular.
I. That if we would take a right estimate of man, we must consider him in respect to a double state—here and hereafter—and that for these two reasons:
1. Because there is less of man here and more hereafter.
2. Because man is more valuable than this world represents him to be.
I. The first of these I will make appear in three particulars, that there is less of man here and much more hereafter.
1. In respect of his time and continuance in being.
2. In this state there is less of right judgment of things and persons. Things here go under false appearances, and persons here are under the power of lying imaginations.
3. Less of weal or woe is in this state than in the other, for men in this state do not fully reap the fruit of their own ways; they do not come to the proof of the bargain they have made. In the respects before mentioned and others that possibly might be superadded, it appears that there is less of man in this world. But I may also adjoin, by way of exception, some particulars to the contrary, for I must acknowledge that in some respects our being in this world is very considerable.
I will instance in three particulars--
1. In respect of man’s possibility.
2. In respect of man’s opportunity.
3. In respect of man’s well-grounded faith and expectation.
I now come to the second reason. Why, if we would make a just estimate of man, we must consider him in respect to his double state of existence, in time and in eternity. For man is a much more valuable creature than his affairs in this world represent him to be, and this I will make appear in three particulars. Because--
1. Man is here in his state of infancy; yea, he is as it were imprisoned and encumbered with a gross, dull, and crazy body.
2. In this state man is neither as he should be, nor, if he himself well consider, as he would be. The state of man in this world doth represent him subject to the same vanity that all other creatures lie under (Job_17:14). This state represents a man as very low and mean because he is subjected to low and mean employments—fit only to converse with other creatures. This present state represents a man in a condition of beggary, dependence, and necessity (Job_1:21). This state represents a man as worn out with solicitude and care for himself, as being tormented with fear, and more to seek than any other creature. This state represents man to be in danger from him that is next him, and of his own kind; for so is the world through sin become degenerate, that one man, as it were, is become a wolf to another. Lastly, the state of man in this life represents his condition other ways than indeed it is; that is, it represents a man the object of the devil’s envy, usurpation, and tyranny. He is called the “Prince of the power of the air, the spirit that worketh in the children of disobedience” (Eph 2:2). For the close of this particular I shall add a word or two of application.
1. If so be there is less of man here and more hereafter, if when we would take a right estimate of man we must consider him in respect of his double estate, hereafter as well as here, then those persons are guilty of the greatest madness and folly that consider themselves only in order to this life; whereas these men have souls to save or to lose, and there is another state that will commence and begin after the expiration of this.
2. My next inference from what hath been said is—that we should not be tempted in this life to do anything to the prejudice of our future state, the state of eternity; but to let things be considered according to the true worth and value, lest they find cause to repent, when it is too late, of the pleasures they took in their unlawful actions.
II. The second proposition is—that the state of man in the life to come holds a proportion to his affairs in this life.
1. Let it be understood that I have no intention at all to speak one word to countenance the creature’s merit with God, for that I conceive to be incompatible to the condition of the highest angel in glory properly to merit anything at the hand of God.
2. Again, when I say the state of man in the world to come holds a proportion to his affairs in this world, you must not understand it means worldly circumstances of wealth, honour, pleasure, strength, or worldly privileges. Therefore in the affirmative, two things there are belonging to men in this state which are the measures of our happiness in the future state--
(1) The internal disposition and mental temper.
(2) The illicit acts which follow the temper and are connatural to it. These are our acquisitions, through the grace and assistance of God, which always is to be understood as principal to all good, though it be not always expressed, for all good is of God.
And for this I will give you an account that it must be so.
1. From the nature of the thing, for goodness and happiness are the same thing materially; in nature they are the same, as malignity and misery are the same in nature too.
2. From the judgment of God, and those declarations which He hath made of Himself in the Scriptures, which everywhere declare that He will render to every one according to right (Rom_2:6-8). Then let men look well to their mental dispositions, and to their moral actions. This is of a mighty use in religion to understand the true notion of moral actions. From the words of the text I shall observe briefly two things more—First. That worldly prosperity is no certain forerunner of future happiness; for this is a thing heterogenial, and is from distinct and quite other causes.
The providence of God governs the world, and the laws of the kingdom of Christ are quite different things.
1. Let no man make himself a slave to that which is no part of his happiness.
2. Let him take his chief care about that which is in certain conjunction with happiness, and that is the noble generous temper of his soul, and the illicit acts of his mind. Secondly. We see from hence that men change terms, circumstances, and conditions, one with another in the world to come.
For an account of this--
1. Things many times are wrong here, but they will not be wrong always.
2. The present work is to exercise virtue. This is a probation state, a state of trial, and if so, there must be freedom and liberty of action.
3. The final resolution and last stating of things is reserved to another time when no corrupt judge shall sit, but He shall come that shall judge the world in righteousness.
The use I will make of this is--
1. Therefore, do not envy any one’s condition; it is not safe, though glory attend upon it for a while (Psa_37:1).
2. Satisfy thyself in thine own condition if it be good and virtuous, for then it is safe.
3. Have a right notion and judgment of the business of time, which is to prepare for the future state.
I will conclude this discourse with these four inferences:
1. Then it is folly and madness for men—as frequently they do—to estimate or consider themselves wholly or chiefly by their affairs in this world, and by the good things thereof, such as are power, riches, pleasures.
2. Then it is the great concernment of our souls not at all to admit of any temptation or suggestion to do anything in this life to the prejudice of our state in eternity.
3. Then it is fairly knowable in this state, and by something thereof as a foregoing participation or sign, what our state and condition for sort and kind will be in the world to come.
4. Then faith and patience to go through the world withal, for the day draws on apace for the stating and rectifying of things, the proportioning of recompense and reward to action, and the completing and consummating what is weak and imperfect for the present. He is unreasonably ira patient and hasty who will not stay and expect the season of the year and what that brings, but mutters and complains of injury and hard measures because he cannot have harvest in seed-time. (B. Whichcote.)
The sin of neglecting to be charitable
Here are three great aggravations of the rich man’s uncharitableness--
I. That here was an object presented to him.
II. Such an object as would move any one’s pity, a man reduced to extreme misery and necessity.
III. A little relief would have contented him.
1. That unmercifulness and uncharitableness to the poor is a very great sin. It contains in its very nature two black crimes.
(1) Inhumanity; it is an argument of a cruel and savage disposition not to pity those that are in want and misery.
(2) Besides the inhumanity of this sin, it is likewise a great impiety toward God. Unmercifulness to the poor hath this fourfold impiety in it—it is a contempt of God; an usurpation upon His right; a slighting of His providence; and a plain demonstration that we do not love God, and that all our pretense's to religion are hypocritical and insincere.
2. That it is such a sin, as alone, and without any other guilt, is sufficient to ruin a man for ever. The parable lays the rich man’s condemnation upon this, it was the guilt of this sin that tormented him when he was in hell. The Scripture is full of severe threatening's against this sin (Pro_21:13). Our eternal happiness does not so much depend upon the exercise of any one single grace or virtue, as this of charity and mercy. Faith and repentance are more general and fundamental graces, and, as it were, the parents of all the rest: but of all single virtues, the Scripture lays the greatest weight upon this of charity; and if we do truly believe the precepts of the gospel, and the promises and threatening's of it, we cannot but have a principal regard to it.
I know how averse men generally are to this duty, which make them so full of excuses and objections against it.
1. They have children to provide for. This is not the case of all, and they whose case it is may do well to consider that ii will not be amiss to leave a blessing as well as an inheritance to their children.
2. They tell us they intend to do something when they die. It shows a great backwardness to the work when we defer it as long as we can. It is one of the worst compliments we can put upon God to give a thing to Him when we can keep it no longer.
3. Others say, they may come to want themselves, and it is prudence to provide against that. To this I answer--
(1) I believe that no man ever came the sooner to want for his charity. David hath an express observation to the contrary (Psa_37:25).
(2) Thou mayest come to want though thou give nothing; in which case thou mayest justly look upon neglect of this duty as one of the causes of thy poverty.
(3) After all our care to provide for ourselves, we must trust the providence of God; and a man can in no case so safely commit himself to God as in well-doing.
But, if the truth were known, I doubt covetousness lies at the bottom of this objection: however, it is fit it should be answered.
(1) I say, that no man that is not prejudiced, either by his education or interest, can think that a creature can merit anything at the hand of God, to whom all that we can possibly do is antecedently due; much less that we can merit so great a reward as that of eternal happiness.
(2) Though we deny the merit of good works, yet we firmly believe the necessity of them to eternal life. (Archbishop Tillotson.)
1. Riches constitute a serious, though not insuperable, obstacle to one’s salvation; and poverty, in itself undesirable, is, in a spiritual aspect, less dangerous than riches.
2. Before Him who seeth not as man seeth, the millionaire has no advantage over the mendicant.
3. The soul is the same self-conscious existence immediately after death that it was before; and death ushers some, at once, into a state of conscious enjoyment, and some into a state of conscious misery.
4. They that would not, while probationers, cry to God for mercy, will, in eternity, look in vain for mercy to either God or man.
5. Those whom God designs to save He finds it necessary to chasten, so that life’s evil things may wean them from the world and fit them the better to enjoy an eternity of good things. But there are men of the world who have their portion in this life. They prefer enjoying the pleasures of sin for a season, rather than to suffer affliction with the people of God, and hence they in their lifetime receive their good things, but are tormented in the world to come.
6. While here, sinners are urged to cross the moral chasm which separates them from saints, for Christ has bridged it; but after death it becomes to them an unbridged, impassable gulf.
7. How deluded are they who suppose that converse with the dead is possible, or that the unseen world can, in that way, be partly unveiled. An inspired book was God’s wise and chosen mode of acquainting us with spiritual truths, and he who has this book, yet disregards its teachings, will, in eternity, reap the bitter consequences. (T. Williston.)
Dives and Lazarus
I. THE FUTURE STATE IS ONE OF RETRIBUTION.
II. THE FUTURE STATE IS ONE INTO WHICH MEMORY ENTERS AS A FACTOR OF HAPPINESS OR MISERY.
III. IN THE FUTURE STATE INTEREST IS FELT IN THOSE WHO ARE STILL IN THE BODY.
IV. GOD BESTOWS UPON US HERE AND NOW ALL THE PRIVILEGES WHICH ARE NEEDFUL TO PREPARE FOR THE FUTURE STATE.
1. The seriousness and solemnity of this earthly probation.
2. The folly of those who use this life simply for their own gratification.
3. The nearness of eternity.
4. The justice of God’s requirement of assent to His truth and compliance with His demands.
5. The importance of an immediate acceptance of the gospel, and immediate preparation for judgment. (J. R. Thomson, M. A.)
Luxury disregarding severing
Mdlle. Taglione, the celebrated dancer, spent her last London season at Her Majesty’s Theatre in 1847. She said she would not return to London, being dissatisfied with the admiration which she received. The season was exceptionally brilliant, “though it was said that bread was dear, and the misery of the people great.” “One would never suspect it,” said the famous dancer, “to see so many splendid equipages, and so many diamonds on the white shoulders of the ladies.”
“The age cannot be very good,” remarked Hannah More, “when the strawberries at Lady Stormonth’s breakfast last Saturday morning cost one hundred and fifty pounds.”
Too respectable for hell
A wealthy merchant of Philadelphia, who would not listen to the gospel message in health, sent for me at his deathbed. I told him, “I have nothing new to tell you. You are a sinner, and here is a Saviour. Do you feel your guilt, and will you take a Saviour?” “No. There must be some better place than hell for a man of my respectability.” (S. H.Tyng, D. D.)
Riches and perdition
Ay, and so it is with the wicked man nowadays. He gets rich, but what is the use of being wealthy if you must be damned? Fool that he is, if he buys a gold coffin, how would that help him? Suppose he is laid out with a bag of gold in each hand, and a pile of it between his legs, how will that help him? Others seek to get learning, but what is the good of learning if you sink to perdition with it? Take up the learned man’s skull, and what is the difference between that and the skull of the merest pauper that scarcely knew his letters? Brown unpalpable powder, they both crumble down into the same elements. To die in a respectable position, what is the use of it? What are a few more plumes on the hearse, or a longer line of mourning coaches? Will these ease the miseries of Tophet? Ah! friends, you have to die. Why not make ready for the inevitable? Oh! if men were wise, they would see that all earth’s joys are just like the bubbles which our children blow with soap; they glitter and they shine, and then they are gone, and there is not even a wreck left behind. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The just retribution of selfishness
How marvelously just was the retribution of selfishness! with what wonderful precision was the punishment adapted to the sin! During the life of Lazarus, he had laid at the rich man’s gate, whence he could behold the pomp, and hear the revelry, that reigned in the gorgeous mansion; and he had asked only for the crumbs that fell from the table, and even these were denied him. But after death the rich man and the beggar are literally made to change places. Dives is placed where he can be a spectator of the happiness of Lazarus; and he desires, but desires in vain, a single drop from those gushing fountains which he saw on the other side of the gulf. You cannot but observe how accurately Dives has become what Lazarus was, and Lazarus what Dives. Lazarus was the beggar, now Dives is. Lazarus saw, though he did not share the abundance of Dives; Dives now sees, but only sees, the abundance of Lazarus. Lazarus asked for crumbs, and Dives asks for a drop. Crumbs were refused, and now even the drop is withheld. Thus the selfish man is made to feel his selfishness through being placed in the precise position of the supplicant, whom his selfishness had caused him to neglect. It may be thus in regard to every other sin, that the wicked will be so circumstanced in futurity, that their sins will be forced on their recollection, and thus conscience be kept for ever on the alert—for ever on the fret. And all—for indeed these are things too dreadful to be dwelt on long—all we can say is, that if the selfish man is to beg in vain from the victims of his selfishness, if the envious is to be forced to gaze on the splendour of those whom he envied, if the seducer is to be made to feel himself for ever the seduced—yea, if punishment is to be so exactly the picture of crime, that a man shall seem to be eternally receiving in his own person the very wrongs that he did to others, so that every stroke beneath which he writhes will appear as the reflected blow of his own violence rebounding on himself, then, indeed, must we be living under a government which will vindicate its righteousness; and he who, in Scriptural language, “ sows the wind,” must be a spectacle of justice when compelled to “reap the whirlwind.” (H. Melvill, B. D.)
Self-denial necessary to salvation
This rich man was no opera sinner, but he was simply living to and for self; he enjoyed life, as men say, to the full; he got out of it all the satisfaction he could; self was the centre round which his thoughts, his time, his money revolved; he indulged his taste for fine dress and good food without restraint. In the face, then, of this awful warning, ask yourself the question, Can it be said that my life is marked by self-denial? do I, for Christ’s sake, and for that only, do that which is against my natural inclinations, and leave undone that which I should otherwise be inclined to do? or, on the other hand, is it my constant aim and desire to get as much enjoyment for myself as I can in life, if not to the loss and injury of others, yet without any particular thought or care about them? And it will not do to reckon as acts of self-denial instances in which our wills and inclinations have been thwarted, either by others, or by the direct action of God’s providence. We must all of us endure a great many crosses and disappointments whether we will or no; no doubt the rich man had occasionally his cares and vexations. These do not leave the stamp of the cross upon our lives, except when they are made to minister to our spiritual good through a willing and loving acquiescence in the will of our Heavenly Father. They may become only the occasion of fresh sin in the shape of fretfulness and discontent. Self-denial is something very different from these. It is the habit of mind which leads us in everything to ask, not how may I best please myself, but, how may I best serve God and aid the souls and bodies of others? Take, for instance, the question of time. We are naturally selfish about our time; we like to spend it in the manner which most gratifies self. Self-denial will set us about asking, Can I, by giving this or that hour which I should otherwise devote to amusement, bring any aid or pleasure to others? Or again, take the question of money. We naturally like to spend our money on ourselves, or on some object which brings gratification to self. Self-denial will suggest to us to give up something which we should otherwise have liked in order to devote the money to God. And do not let us shrink back as though self-denial were some hard, bitter thing: it brings with it greater pleasure than self-indulgence. And we may begin, if we have never practised it before, by small acts; God accepts even the cup of cold water given for Christ’s sake. (S. W.Skeffington, M. A.)
Conscious existence after death
I. THERE IS SUCH A THING AS CONTINUANCE OF EXISTENCE—AND OF CONSCIOUS EXISTENCE—AFTER DEATH.
II. THIS CONDITION OF CONSCIOUS EXISTENCE MAY BE ONE OF INTENSE MISERY.
III. CONSIDER WHAT IT WAS IN THE RICH MAN’S EARTHLY LIFE WHICH LED TO SUCH CALAMITOUS RESULTS. (Gordon Calthrop, M. A.)
The mind made a hell
A great and rich man in one of our towns in the West was once taken sick and lost his mind. When he recovered from his sickness he was still a deranged man. He seemed never to know his own wife or children. He forgot all his old friends. For seven long years he was in this unhappy state. One day, while sitting in the room where his daughters were, he sprang from his chair and cried out in great joy, “Thank God I am out at last!” I cannot describe the scene of that hour. He embraced and kissed his daughters. He wept with joy on the bosom of his wife, and acted as if he had not seen them for many years. At last he said to them, “For seven long years I have been in a burning hell. It was a horrible cavern of lakes and rocks and mountains of fire. I saw millions there, but could find no friend. I was ever burning, yet never consumed; ever dying, yet never dead. No light of the sun shined there, and no smile of God was seen. I remembered there every sinful thing I had done, and was tormented in my soul. I thought of the sufferings and death of that blessed Saviour, and how I had treated Him. There was no rest to my soul day nor night. I had no hope there. Yet I wandered in madness to find some way of escape. At last, as I stood on the top of a high rock blazing with heat, I saw in the distance a little opening like the light of the sky. I jumped headlong down, and with all my powers made my way towards it. At last I climbed up to it, and worked and struggled through; and, blessed be God, here I am again, with my beloved wife and children.” Now, my friends, suppose there is no such place as hell. Suppose some one should be so foolish as to hope that there is no such place. Yet remember, that if God can make a man’s own mind such a hell as this while he is yet in this world, He can find a still more fearful hell for him in the world to come. (Bishop Meade.)
Where is hell?
“Where is hell?” was the question once asked by a scoffer. Brief but telling was the reply, “Anywhere outside of heaven.” (Biblical Museum.)
No relief possible in hell
It is an overpowering reflection! but we have sometimes emboldened ourselves to inquire what would bring relief and support to the lost in hell? What could soften the keenness of that flame? And two considerations have raised themselves in our mind as those which, could they be indulged, might yield the assuagement that we had ventured to suppose.
1. The first consideration we should demand is, that the sufferer of the doom might feel that it was inevitable. The idea of fate sets us free from the sense of blame.
2. The second consideration which might subdue the fierceness of infernal agonies, would be that they are undeserved. It would be joy to the prisoners, could they only reflect, “We are the victims of arbitrary justice!” Spirit has not, however, passed into such regions with either of these consolations, nor found them there! Spirit never, in fearful soliloquy, spake: “Necessity wrought this chain, and malignity locked it!” Spirit never exclaimed: “Despite of myself, I was dragged hither, and here in violation of all truth and equity I am chained!”… It is the converse of these thoughts that deepens the outer darkness, that accumulates the horrors of the pit. “It need not have been.” What a self-upbraiding! “Justice had none other recourse.” What a self-condemnation! “Why would ye die?” is the rebuke for ever in their ear! “We indeed justly,” is the confession for ever on the tongue! (R. W. Hamilton.)
It is something—it is a step towards higher reaches of faith, to be well assured of the existence and reality of this invisible realm, in which the spirits of the departed energize (for surely such is the plain teaching of the parable) after they are severed from the body, and go through all the processes of consciousness, thought, and feeling. It is something to believe, or rather something to realize the truth, that there is indeed a world, more thickly peopled with the spirits of the departed than this earth is with the bodies of the living; and that among the inhabitants of this world there are movements of mind, acting's of the will, the memory, the understanding, the affections: on the one hand, a spiritual intercommunion with Christ and the members of Christ, fetching deepest peace into the soul; on the other, all the agitations of fear, remorse, compunction, and despair. The realm is to us a shrouded realm, but surely not the less real because we cannot apprehend it with our senses. Let us now consider briefly what the text implies of the circumstances, sentiments, and character of the rich worldling, who is represented as undergoing torments.
I. As to his circumstances. It is sufficiently indicated that he was a Jew by descent. He calls Abraham father, and Abraham, though separated from him by a great gulf, though unable to render him assistance, or comply with his request, does not refuse to recognize hire. “Abraham said unto him, Son, remember.” What! a son of Abraham, and yet an outcast! Circumcised the eighth day, and yet a reprobate! A child of God’s covenant, and yet a vessel of wrath fitted to destruction!
II. From the position and circumstances of this rich worldling, we next proceed to consider his sentiments. He is represented as imploring Abraham to save his five brethren from the doom in which he had irretrievably involved himself, by sending them an unearthly warning of the reality of a future state of existence, and of its horrors for the ungodly. It does not seem that every spark of natural affection, exile from God and from happiness though he be, is extinguished in this man’s breast.
III. Let me mention a third point, still more favourable to his salvation, than the two preceding, but still quite insufficient to secure it: this is, that so far as appears from the narrative, he had not been guilty of any crime, of any gross or palpable offence whatever.
He had not hurled blasphemous defiance against the Most High.
My brethren, these remarks may serve to confute the fatal error of those in whose estimation the only real sins in existence are sins of commission.
How many are there who congratulate themselves on the many wrong things which they have never done.
What, then, was the sin, a willful and impenitent continuance in which ensured the eternal loss of this worldling’s soul? The sin, in its root (for every sin has a root, a state of mind out of which it springs and to which it is referable), was unbelief.
But I must hasten on to point out the particular development of unbelief with which this narrative presents us.
If a man have no realizing apprehension of a future state, still more if he entertain doubts respecting some revealed” particulars of that state, the natural consequence, the practical operation of such views, will be a living for this world.
All beyond the grave is, in such a man’s apprehensions, hazy, indistinct, uncertain.
His aim was to enjoy himself, to lead a life of ease and self-indulgence.
Whenever, accidentally, misery or want met his eye, he turned away as from an object distressing to contemplate. And hence, probably, more than from any settled hardness of heart, sprang his culminating offence, his entire lack of service to God’s poor. Behold then, brethren, in these words, the origin and development of that sin which, cherished to the end of his days, issued in the ruin of his soul—practical unbelief; a living unto self and for this world; an entire forgetfulness of the wants of others. Nothing flagrant, nothing vicious, nothing openly immoral, but quite enough to conduct him to that awful realm, where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. My brethren, our subject admits of, or rather it challenges, a close application to our own circumstances, and that in regard both of the times on which we are fallen, and of the place in which our lot is cast.
1. A subtle disbelief of the spiritual world in general, and of a future state of existence (at least on the side of eternal punishment), is fast insinuating itself into the minds of the respectable, the educated, and thoughtful classes. Again, there is a growing, and even avowed, disbelief among the most earnest and thoughtful men of the day on the subject of eternal punishment. And here I would remark that disbelief of the future world, in any of its aspects, is very closely connected with disbelief of the unseen world which is at present around us. I shall suppose, then, the case of a man who, while orthodox in all the main articles of his religious belief, and nominally a member of the Church, has allowed his faith in things unseen and eternal to be secretly sapped. In that he resembles Dives.
2. The second point to which I shall call your attention, in applying to our own consciences the warning of the text, is the atmosphere of religious privilege, which my academical hearers specially, but those residing in the city also in good measure, habitually inhale. Yet who does not know that, where no corresponding zeal and spirituality exist in the heart, this frequency of religious ordinance and privilege acts rather as a soporific than as a stimulant, makes eternal things more hazy and less substantial than they were, when worship more rarely recurred?
3. Now, our Lord, in the parable before us, represents this development of resources as having a dangerous tendency, as contributing something material to strengthen the impenitence of the natural heart. (Dean Goulburn.)
Natural affection distinguished from the faith and love of the gospel
We desire to show what light she parable throws on the obligation and the motives of Christian benevolence: First, by setting before us, in the rich man, a character in which that grace is deficient; and, secondly, by setting before us, in Lazarus, a fitting object for its exercise.
I. We find in the rich man a character devoid of Christian benevolence, or the Christian principle of benevolence; and this defect rendered all his goodness of any other sort unavailing. For that he was good in some points and in a certain sense we gather from the conclusion of the parable. And why does he select his brothers alone, from the victims of his example? It must be—it can only be—from the relentings of fraternal tenderness. The earnestness of his prayer, that they might not “also come to the place of torment,” marks the still remaining sensitiveness of his natural sensibilities, and the strength of his natural affection. In the first place—how little is that sensibility and natural affection to be depended upon, which even the condemned in the place of torment may feel! What! will you build your hope of heaven on a virtue which you may share in common with the accursed inmates and inhabitants of hell? Will you plume and pride yourselves on your kindly feelings, or your goodness of heart, as a security that all is well, and that ultimately, somehow or other, you cannot but be happy, when you see much of that kindliness of feeling, and what you call goodness of heart, in the regions of everlasting woe? Learn, then, ye who are living in friendship with the world, yet still in conscious enmity against God—loving perhaps your brother, according to the flesh, with much tenderness of human affection, yet untaught to love your God with all your heart, and to love your neighbour for His sake—learn to estimate the real worth, or rather worthlessness, of your much.vaunted goodness of heart. It is not a goodness that will carry you to heaven. But, in the second place, we must put the case more strongly still. We must observe that this natural sensibility and affection, when the views are thus enlarged by taking in eternity as well as time, may become itself the very source of misery and torment. It is evidently so represented in the case of this rich man. His solicitude about his brothers very much increased his own sufferings, and aggravated the agony of his own hopeless condetonation. This is a very striking and appalling view to take of the misery awarded to the impenitent and unbelieving. It shows how the very best, the most amiable and generous, feelings of the unrenewed and unregenerated soul, may become themselves the means and occasions of its sorer punishment. Experience even here on earth shows, that affection makes us partakers of the sufferings as well as the joys of our fellow-creatures and friends. His love to his brothers on earth superseded his love to his Father in heaven. And fitly therefore now, that very love is made to minister the punishment due to him for his breach of the first and great commandment. He loved his brethren independently of God. He made them partakers of his pleasures; and partakers also of his sin. Have you no fear, I ask—that in the very attachment you are now forming—in the very affection you are now indulging—in the friendship and love which every day is rendering more intense, as you lavish on its object all proofs and tokens of tenderest regard—you may be but treasuring up the very instruments of wrath against theday of wrath? Cultivate the charities of social and domestic life; but be sure that you cultivate them as in the sight of God, and in the full and steady prospect of eternity.
II. We turn now to the other party in this scene, the other figure in this picture. We consider the beggar, and his claim to sympathy and relief. It is a claim which the benevolence of mere natural feeling overlooked, but which the benevolence of Christian principle insists upon having regarded. It is in this light, accordingly, that the Christian considers his fellow-men; as being either actually partakers, or capable of yet becoming partakers, of the grace and the glory of God. This is the ground of the esteem in which he holds them—this the measure of the value he assigns to them. How different is this esteem of men, on account of the worth and value of their souls, from the careless and casual sympathy of mere natural compassion, and how vastly more effectual as a motive of benevolence? The man of natural kindness and sensibility, touched with the sight of woe, and moved to pity and to tears, may utter the voice of tenderness, and stretch forth the hand of charity. But the object of his compassion has no great importance or value in his eyes. All the interest he takes in him is simply on account of his present suffering. But now, if you were to view that individual in the light in which Christianity represents him; as one of those whom the Father willeth to save, and for whose souls He gave His own Son to die; how would the intensity of your concern in Him be deepened, and how would your sense of obligation to Him be enhanced! Again, how different is this Christian view of the preciousness of every human being, from the view which mere infidel philanthropy takes! On the infidel hypothesis—what at the best, in the eye of enlightened benevolence, is the race of man? A succession of insects—creatures of a day, fluttering their few hours of shade and sunshine, and then sinking into endless night. Is it worth while to fret and toil much for such a generation? It is the gospel alone that shows the real value of man—of individual man—as having a spirit that will never die; and enforces the regard due to him from his fellow-men on the ground of his being the object of the regard of their common God. See, then, that you love him as God loves him. God is kind to the evil and to the unthankful, because He would have them to be saved. Be you kind to them also; and with the same view. Abound towards them in all good works.
Melt their hearts, though hard and sullen as lead, by heaping your benefits as coals of fire upon their heads. (Dr. Candlish.)
The rich man’s prayer
I. A good act at a wrong time.
II. A good prayer for a wrong purpose.
III. A good effort with no effect. (The Preacher’s Analyst.)
The retributive power of memory
Those who believe in the immortality of the soul must also believe in the immortality of its faculties—reason, memory, conscience.
I. WHAT, THEN, IS MEMORY? LET US FIRST DEFINE THE FACULTY. Every one is aware of the fact that the knowledge which we have once acquired, the things we have seen and done, the experiences that we have had, though not always present to the mind, are nevertheless so retained, that the same things may be, and often are, recalled to our mental notice. Every one is fully conscious of such a fact in his own history. We designate this fact by the term memory. Memory is, therefore, the mind’s power of preserving and knowing its own past history. It is the same in both worlds. We are, moreover, so constructed, that we cannot discredit the knowledge given by memory. I am as certain of what I distinctly remember, as I can be of anything. The absolute loss of memory would destroy the whole framework of man’s mental existence, by limiting his intellectual life to the impressions of the passing moments.
II. LET ME SAY THAT MEMORY OPERATES IN OBEDIENCE TO ESTABLISHED AND PERMANENT LAWS. By them we conduct the process of memory. We do it without labour, yea, by necessity, having no power not to do it. Thus we think of ourselves as intelligent, conscious, voluntary, in both worlds, in both exercising memory according to fixed laws, some of which at least rule our present life.
III. I WISH TO CALL YOUR ATTENTION TO THE EXTENT OF ITS RETENTIVE AND REPRODUCTIVE POWER. In the amazing greatness of this power, as we observe it in time, we shall perhaps find the condition of at least conjecturing what it will be in eternity. It was the opinion of Lord Bacon that nothing in one’s antecedent history is ever irrecoverably forgotten.
Coleridge held the same view. We know, as a matter of positive experience, that the prominent and leading facts of life past are safely retained in the bosom of memory. The many instances of remarkable memory that we gather from history are an instructive commentary upon the greatness of this power. Themistocles, we am told, could call by their names the twenty thousand citizens of Athens. It is said of Cyrus, that he could repeat the name of every soldier in his army. There are also many striking and peculiar cases of resuscitated knowledge, in which apparently extinct memories are suddenly restored. Numerous instances of quickened memory, under the influence of physical causes, show what the mind may do under special and extraordinary exaltations of its activity. Persons on the brink of death by drowning are said to have unusually vivid visions of the past. If such be memory here, in this nascent state of our being—this mere infancy of our intellectual life—what may it not be, and what may it not do, when, with our other faculties, freed from a body of flesh and blood, it shall soar in progressive expansion and enlargement through the ages of a coming eternity?
IV. WHAT IS TO BE THE IMPRESSION OF MEMORY UPON OUR HAPPINESS OR MISERY IN THE FUTURE WORLD? That so great a power will make an impression upon the soul, pleasant or painful, according to the character of the facts embraced in the exercise, is an inference derivable not only from the greatness of the power, but equally from the ample materials of our present experience. (S. T. Spear, D. D.)
The memory of the lost
I. THERE IS SATISFACTORY EVIDENCE THAT THE MEMORY OF EARTHLY SCENES WILL BE RETAINED IN ETERNITY. This is implied in the very nature of retribution. The soul is to be punished for the deeds done in the body; and unless it remember those deeds, how can it know for what it is punished? The nature of retribution, and the end of God’s government in it, require that the soul should remember. Moreover, the philosophy of the mind itself teaches the same thing. Go to the place of your birth, and look at the objects that were familiar to you in early days, and the scenes and events of childhood, which have been gone from you for years, will come thronging up from the storehouse of memory, and you will almost think yourself a child again. The past is not for ever gone, and at the appropriate signal it can all be summoned before us. And is there any evidence that death will break this chain of memory?
II. NOT ONLY WILL THE MEMORY EXIST IN THE FUTURE WORLD, BUT IT WILL PROBABLY POSSESS FAR GREATER ACTIVITY AND ENERGY THAN IN THE PRESENT LIFE, AND THUS BE ENABLED TO RECALL THE PAST WITH A DISTINCTNESS AND VIVIDNESS NOW WHOLLY UNKNOWN. That our knowing faculty will be vastly increased is expressly asserted in the Word of God. Why not, then, the remembering faculty, which is so intimately associated with it?
III. WHAT SUBJECTS WILL PROBABLY BE MOST PROMINENT IN THE REFLECTIONS OF THE LOST SOUL.
1. They will remember the gifts of Providence, for which they requited their Maker with ingratitude and rebellion.
2. They will doubtless remember the spiritual privileges which they failed to improve.
3. Sinners will remember in eternity the evil influence which they exerted while on earth, and all the fatal consequences of it. (D. B. Coe.)
Like Fear, like Hope, like Love, like Conscience, Memory has a place, a large place, in the heart, in the life, and therefore in the gospel. Whose to-day is not the product of a number of yesterdays? Whose present is not the very fruit and harvest of his past? We should expect that this thing—call it faculty, gift, talent, infliction, or what you will—would have a place, and it has a large place, in Revelation; for Revelation is nothing else than God speaking to man as he is, and calling him to something of which he has in him already the capability and the germ. God Himself ascribes to Himself memory; speaks of remembering, and remembering not; speaks of remembering man’s sorrows and His own mercy; speaks of that other faculty, the reverse of memory, the power of forgetting, which is a more Divine faculty still, when it is exercised, as in the mind and heart of God, in so putting away a man’s sins that He remembers them no more. And God bids man exercise memory; bids him remember his own sins, and be ashamed, bids him remember God’s commandments, and set himself to obey; bids him remember his last end, and make preparation: bids him remember death, judgment, and eternity, and the great gulf fixed.
1. Remember, we will say first, God’s dealings with thee. O, it is not philosophy, it is mere commonplace vulgar infidelity, which makes any of us doubt whether God has been about our path and about our journey in the time past of our life. If we have not seen Him, it is the worse for us.
2. Remember the opportunities, seized or neglected, with which God in the past has furnished and endowed you. Who can think of his school-days, and not reproach himself bitterly with neglects, now irreparable, of instructions and influences which might have altered the very complexion of his life? Who can remember his friends, and not mourn over evil done and good left undone? And when we pass from these outward gifts to such as are altogether spiritual; when we think of the Word of God, and His House, and His Ministry, and His Sacraments; then, there is a solemnity, an awfulness, even as it is heard in this life, in the charge, “Son, remember.”
3. Remember the blessings God has showered upon thee. (Dean Vaughan.)
Memory in another world
I. In another state, MEMORY WILL BE SO WIDENED AS TO TAKE IN THE WHOLE LIFE. We behove that the contents of the intellectual nature, the capacities of that nature also, are all increased by the fact of having done with earth and having left the body behind. But whether saved or lost—he that dies is greater than when yet living; and all his powers are intensified and strengthened by that awful experience of death, and by what it brings with it. Memory partakes in the common quickening. There are not wanting analogies and experiences in our present life to let us see that, in fact, when we talk about for getting we ought to mean nothing more than the temporary cessation of conscious remembrance. Everything which you do leaves its effect with you for ever, just as long-forgotten meals are in your blood and bones to-day. Every act that a man performs is there. It has printed itself upon his soul, it has become a part of himself; and though, like a newly painted picture, after a little while the colours go in, why is that? Only because they have entered into the very fibre of the canvas, and have left the surface because they are incorporated with the substance, and they want but a touch of varnish to flash out again! As the developing solution brings out the image on the photographic plate, so the mind has the strange power, by fixing the attention, as we say (a short word which means a long, mysterious thing) upon that past that is half remembered and half forgotten, of bringing it into clear consciousness and perfect recollection. The fragmentary remembrances which we have now, lift themselves above the ocean of forgetfulness like islands in some Archipelago, the summits of sister hills, though separated by the estranging sea that covers their converging sides and the valleys where their roots unite. The solid land is there, though hidden. Drain off the sea, and there will be no more isolated peaks, but continuous land. In this life we have but the island memories heaving themselves into sight, but in the next “the Lord” shall “cause the sea to go back” by the breath of His mouth, and the channels of the great deep of a human heart’s experiences and actions shall be laid bare. “There shall be no more sea”; but the solid land of a whole life will appear when God says, “Son, remember!” So much, then, for my first consideration—namely, that memory in a future state will comprehend the whole of life.
II. Another thing is, that MEMORY IN A FUTURE STATE WILL PROBABLY BE SO RAPID AS TO EMBRACE ALL THE PAST LIFE AT ONCE. We do not know, we have no conception of it, the extent to which our thinking, and feeling, and remembrance, are made tardy by the slow vehicle of this bodily organization in which the soul rides. As on the little retina of an eye there can be painted on a scale inconceivably minute, every tree and mountaintop in the whole wide panorama, so, in an instant, one may ran through almost a whole lifetime of mental acts. Ah, brethren, we know nothing yet about the rapidity with which we may gather before us a whole series of events; so that although we have to pass from one to another, the succession may be so swift, as to produce in our own minds the effect of all being co-existent and simultaneous. As the child, flashing about him a bit of burning stick, may seem to make a circle of flame, because the flame-point moves so quickly, so memory, though it does go from point to point, and dwells for some inconceivably minute instant on each part of the remembrance, may yet be gifted with such lightning speed, with such rapidity and awful quickness of glance, as that to the man himself the effect shall be that his whole life is spread out there before him in one instant, and that he, Godlike, sees the end and the beginning side by side. Yes; from the mountain of eternity we shall look down, and behold the whole plain spread before us. Once more: it seems as if, in another world, memory would not only contain the whole life, and the whole life simultaneously; but would perpetually attend or haunt us.
III. A CONSTANT REMEMBRANCE. It does not lie in our power even in this world, to decide very much whether we shall remember or forget. There are memories that will start up before us, whether we are willing or not. Like the leprosy in the Israelite’s house, the foul spot works its way out through all the plaster and the paint; and the house is foul because it is there. I remember an old castle where they tell us of foul murder committed in a vaulted chamber with a narrow window, by torchlight one night; and there, they say; there are the streaks and stains of blood on the black oak floor; and they have planed, and scrubbed, and planed again, and thought they were gone—but there they always are, and continually up comes the dull, reddish-black stain, as if oozing itself out through the boards to witness to the bloody crime again! The superstitious fable is a type of the way in which a foul thing, a sinful and bitter memory—gets engrained into a man’s heart. He tries to banish it, and gets rid of it for a while. He goes back again, and the spots are there, and will be there for ever; and the only way to get rid of them is to destroy the soul in which they are. Memory is not all within the power of the will on earth; and probably, memory in another world is still more involuntary and still more constant. A memory, brethren, that will have its own way; what a field for sorrow and lamentation that is, when God says at last, “Now go—go apart; take thy life with thee; read it over; see what thou hast done with it!” One old Roman tyrant had a punishment in which he bound the dead body of the murdered to the living body of the murderer, and left them there scaffolded. And when that voice comes, “ Son, remember I” to the living soul of the godless, unbelieving, impenitent man, there is bound to him the murdered past, the dead past, his own life; and, in Milton’s awful and profound words,
“Which way I fly is hell—myself am hell!”
There is only one other modification of this awful faculty that I would remind you of; and that is--
IV. That in a future life MEMORY WILL BE ASSOCIATED WITH A PERFECTLY ACCURATE KNOWLEDGE OF THE CONSEQUENCES, AND A PERFECTLY SENSITIVE CONSCIENCE AS TO THE CRIMINALITY OF THE PAST. You will have cause and consequence put down before you, meeting each other at last. There will be no room then to say, “I wonder how such and such a thing will work out,” “I wonder how such a thing can have come upon me”; but every one will have his whole life to look back upon, and will see the childish sin that was the parent of the full-grown vice, and the everlasting sorrow that came out of that little and apparently transitory root. The conscience, which here becomes hardened by contact with sin, and enfeebled because unheeded, will then be restored to its early sensitiveness and power, as if the labourer’s horny palm were to be endowed again with the softness of the infant’s little hand. It is not difficult to see how that is an instrument of torture. It is more difficult to see how such a memory can be a source of gladness, and yet it can. Calvary is on this side, and that is enough! Certainly it is one of the most blessed things about “the faith that is in Christ Jesus,” that it makes a man remember his own sinfulness with penitence, not with pain—that it makes the memory of past transgressions full of solemn joy, because the memory of past transgressions but brings to mind the depth and rushing fulness of that river of love which has swept them all away as far as the east is from the west. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
The present life as related to the future
Let us notice some particulars in which we see the operation of this principle. What are the “good things,” which Dives receives here, for which he must be “tormented” hereafter? and what are the “evil things,” which Lazarus receives in this world, for which he will be “comforted” in the world to come?
1. In the first place, the worldly man derives a more intense physical enjoyment from this world’s goods than does the child of God. He possesses more of them, and gives himself up to them without self-restraint. Not many rich and not many noble are called. In the past history of mankind the great possessions and the great incomes, as a general rule, have not been in the hands of humble and penitent men. In the great centres of trade and commerce—in Venice, Amsterdam, Paris, London—it is the world, and not the people of God, who have had the purse, and have borne what is put therein. So far as this merely physical existence is concerned, the wicked man has the advantage.
2. In the second place, the worldly man derives more enjoyment from sin, and suffers less from it, in this life, than does the child of God. The really renewed man cannot enjoy sin. His sin is a sorrow, a constant sorrow, to him. He feels its pressure and burden all his days, and cries, “O wretched man, who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” And not only does the natural man enjoy sin, but, in this life, he is much less troubled than is the spiritual man with reflections and self-reproaches on account of sin.
This is another of the “good things” which Dives receives, for which he must be “tormented”; and this is another of the “evil things” which Lazarus receives, for which he must be “comforted.”
1. In view of this subject, as thus discussed, we remark, in the first place, that no man can have his “good things”—in other words, his chief pleasure—in both worlds. There is no alchemy that can amalgamate substances that refuse to mix. No man has ever yet succeeded, no man ever will succeed, in securing both the pleasures of sin and the pleasures of holiness—in living the life of Dives, and then going to the bosom of Abraham.
2. And this leads to the second remark, that every man must make his choice whether he will have his “good things” now, or hereafter. Every man is making his choice. The heart is now set either upon God, or upon the world.
3. Hence we remark, in the third place, that it is the duty and the wisdom of every man to let this world go, and seek his “good things” hereafter. Our Lord commands every man to sit down like the steward in the parable, and make an estimate. He enjoins it upon every man to reckon up the advantages upon each side, and see for himself which is superior. (W. G. T. Shedd, D. D.)
Memory as an element in future retribution
Memory is that power of the soul by which it retains the knowledge acquired by the perceptions and consciousness of the past. Its operations are altogether inscrutable by us, and we can give no other account concerning them than this: that God has so made us that our minds have this particular power. Memory is in every man the infallible autobiographer of the soul, and on its pages, however much they may be now concealed from view, are recorded every thought and feeling, every word and action, everything experienced and everything perceived, during the course of life. As in our meteorological stations, by a delicate instrument, with which some of you may be acquainted, the strength and direction of the wind are by the wind itself registered without intermission from hour to hour, so on the tablets of memory the whole history of the soul is by the soul itself recorded with the most minute and unerring exactness. Not indeed that all that is at every moment consciously present to the mind. There is such a thing as forgetfulness, but over against that we must place the fact that things forgotten at one time are remembered at another, so that we may fairly conclude that nothing is ever completely lost by the soul. Memory furnishes the material on which conscience shall pronounce, and conscience gives to memory the sting which turns it into remorse. This is evident, even in the present life. Our own experience testifies thereto; and though a poet has sung in strains of beauty of the Pleasures of Memory, there are few of us who could not tell a thrilling tale of its agonies as well. But in the case of the world to come, over and above these things which make memory even here a scourge to the sinner, there are three considerations which are calculated to intensify its power of torment.
1. Memory shall there recall the events of time as seen in the perspective of eternity. In the crowd and hurry of the present, things bulk before us disproportionately. We need to be at a distance from them before we can estimate them rightly. That is one reason why the past is seen always more correctly when it is past, than it was when it was present; and why it is, that in taking a review of anything, we observe more clearly where we have failed, or in what we have been to blame, than we did at the time when we were engaged in it. You may despise now the blessings which you enjoy, but when they have gone from you to return nevermore, you shall see them in their proper brightness, and upbraid yourselves for your madness in letting them go unimproved.
2. But another thing calculated to intensify the power of memory as an instrument in the retribution of the future life, is the fact that there it shall be quickened in its exercise, and we shall not be able to forget anything. Things of which we are now oblivious shall there be brought back with lurid distinctness to our remembrance, and actions long buried beneath the sands of time shall, like the ruins of Pompeii, be dug up again into the light, and stand before us as they were at first. Among ancient manuscripts which modern research has brought to light, there are some, called by learned men palimpsests, in which it has been discovered that what was originally a gospel or an epistle, or other book of Holy Scripture, had been written over by a medieval scribe with the effusions of a profane poet; but now, by the application of some chemical substance, the original sacred record has been produced, and is used as an authority in settling the reading of disputed passages. So the pages of memory are palimpsests.
3. Another thing which will intensify the power of memory as an element in future retribution is the fact that, in the case of the lost, conscience shall be rectified and give just utterances regarding the events reviewed. As he now is, the sinner can look back with mirth on come hour of frantic dissipation, or some deed of shame; but then conscience will compel him to contemplate such things with the agony of remorse. As he now is, he can congratulate himself on having done a clever thing when he has overreached his neighbour; but then he will lose sight of the cleverness of the act in the guilt by which it was characterized. As he now is, he can gloss over his excesses by speaking of himself, in the specious and entirely deceptive phraseology of the world, as “fast,” or “a little wild,” or “sowing his wild oats,” or the like; but then conscience will insist on calling things by their right names, and each act of wickedness will stand out before him as rebellion against God. Thus, with conscience rectified and memory quickened, it is not difficult to account for the agony of the lost, while at the same time the retributive consequences of sin in the future life are seen to be not the effects of some arbitrary and capricious sentence, but the natural and necessary results of violating the law which was written at first upon our moral constitution.
1. Look at these things in their bearing on the privileges which at present we so lightly esteem. Every blessing disregarded now will there be recalled by memory, and transformed by conscience into an upbraiding reprover and a horrible tormentor.
2. Again, let us apply the principles which have been before our minds this morning to the opportunities of doing good to others which we have allowed to go by us unimproved. Behold here, how the conscience of this man gives sting to his memory as he recalls the resources which were at his command, and sees how much he might have done with them for the promotion of the welfare and happiness of his fellow-men. Never before had he seen his responsibility for them as he sees it now, and now that he does see it in its true light he is not able to act according to its directions, so that the perception of it only magnifies and intensifies his agony. But is there no voice of warning in all this to us? (W. M. Taylor, D. D.)
Reflections of sinners in hell
I. WE HAVE REASON TO BELIEVE THAT THE DAMNED WILL HAVE REFLECTIONS.
1. Their natural powers and faculties will not only be continued, but vastly strengthened and enlarged.
2. They will not meet with the same obstructions to mental exercises that they meet with here in their present state of probation. Here their cares, their troubles, their employments and various amusements, dissipate their thoughts and obstruct reflection. But there such objects will be entirely removed from their reach and pursuit.
3. God will continually exhibit before their view such things as will excite the most painful reflections and anticipations. He will set their sins in order before them, in their nature, magnitude, and peculiar aggravations, so that they cannot obliterate them from their minds. He will exhibit all his great, amiable, and terrible attributes of power, holiness, justice, and sovereignty before them, and give them a constant and realizing sense of His awful presence and displeasure. He will give them no rest and no hope. Let us now--
II. TAKE A SERIOUS VIEW OF THEIR BITTER REFLECTIONS IN THE REGIONS OF DESPAIR.
1. They will realize what they are. Rational and immortal beings, which can never cease to exist nor to suffer.
2. They will realize where they are. In hell.
3. The damned will reflect whence they came to that place of torment. They will reflect upon the land of light and the precious advantages they there enjoyed, before they were confined to the regions of darkness.
4. They will reflect upon all that was done for them, to prevent them from falling into the pit of perdition.
5. They will realize that they destroyed themselves, which will be a source of bitter and perpetual reflections.
6. They will reflect upon what they had done, not only to destroy themselves, but others.
7. They will reflect upon what good they might have done, while they lived in the world.
8. It will pain them to think how they once despised and reproached godliness, and all who lived holy and godly byes.
9. Their clear view of the happiness of heaven will be a source of tormenting reflections.
10. Finally, they will reflect not only upon what they have been, and might have been, but upon what they are, and always will be. They will reflect that being filthy, they shall be filthy still; that being unholy, they shall be unholy still; and that being miserable, they shall be miserable still.
The Preacher's Responsibility
1. If the state of the damned has been properly described, then it is of great importance that ministers should preach plainly upon the subject, and if possible, make their hearers realize the danger of going to hell.
2. If the miseries of the damned be such as have been described, then it deeply concerns sinners to take heed how they hear the gospel.
3. If the miseries of the damned be such as have been described, then we see why the Scripture represents this world as so dangerous to sinners.
4. If the miseries of the damned arise from bitter reflections, then all sinners, in their present state, are fit for destruction. They have just such views, and feelings, and reflections in kind, as the damned have.
5. If the miseries of the damned, and the character of sinners, be such as have been described, then there is reason to fear that some sinners are very near to the pit of perdition. They are in the broad road which has led many such persons as they are to the place where there is no light, and no hope. The symptoms of eternal death are upon them, though they know it not. (N. Emmons, D. D.)
The influence of memory increasing the misery of the lost
What, speaking of a lost soul, will he remember in another world?
I. THE POSSESSIONS HE HAD IN THIS: “Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted; and thou art tormented.” Yes, all shall be recollected: the gains in business that this lost soul in perdition secured when he was an inhabitant of our world; his patrimonial possessions, his accumulations of wealth, his splendid mansions, his gay equipage, his sumptuous living, his retinue of servants, everything that constituted his gaiety and his grandeur, and all his pomp and circumstance. But what advantage will it be to have a voice perpetually saying to him throughout eternity, “Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things”? Oh, the sting of that past tense—“thou hadst”!
II. LOST SOULS WILL REMEMBER THEIR WORLDLY PLEASURES. The poet has said, and every man’s experience sustains the propriety and truth of the expression, “Of joys departed never to return, oh how painful the remembrance.” Think of the votary of this world’s pleasure, think of the man of fashion, think of the woman given up to little else than earthly delights, suddenly arrested in their career, and carried into eternity, away from all their pleasures, to a land where no sounds of mirth, no voice of song, no note of music, ever break upon the ear.
III. THE LOST SOUL WILL REMEMBER IN ETERNITY HIS SINS. The great multitude forget theirs now as soon as they are committed; and any man that sets him. Bell down to the task of counting the number of his transgressions, will find he is engaged in as hopeless a work as numbering the stars that burst on his view on a clear winter’s night. The lurid flashes of perdition will throw light on this subject, and for ever settle the question, that sin is an infinite evil; and then all excuses will be silenced.
IV. THE LOST SOUL WILL RECOLLECT IN ETERNITY ITS MEANS OF GRACE, ITS OPPORTUNITIES OF SALVATION, ITS ADVANTAGES FOR OBTAINING ETERNAL LIFE.
V. THE LOST SOUL IN ETERNITY, WILL REMEMBER ITS IMPRESSIONS, CONVICTIONS, PURPOSES, AND RESOLUTIONS, ON EARTH. Sometimes it is painful to you now to think of this, and you are ready to say, “Oh, that I had never heard that sermon; oh, that I had never had those impressions; oh, that those convictions had never taken hold of my heart! I cannot enjoy my sins as I once did; I am half spoiled for the world, though I am not a member of the Church.” Yes, and you know, that often the scene of festivity, in which others experience no interruption, is marred for you. Then think, young man, think what will be the case in eternity, when a voice shall say, “Son, remember thy impressions; remember thy convictions.” (J. A. James.)
The eternity of memory
Death destroys neither the soul’s capacities nor energies. Memory is eternal; it therefore behoves us to ask with what we are storing it.
1. Consciousness lies at the foundation of all responsible life, and soon merges into the fuller day of self-consciousness. Self-consciousness is the knowledge which self attains when it says “I,” and recognizes that “I” is distinct from anything else in the universe; and involves three things—the knowledge of “myself,” of something not “myself,” and of the relations arising between what is “myself” and what is not “myself.”
2. In order to make these relations explicit, we need a faculty to tell us that we existed yesterday, and what other faculty is this but memory? But unless we make memory to subsist in two parts, as a capacity to retain and an energy to recall, we shall not explain its workings, or be able to see in what way it is deathless.
3. The principles by which active memory works among the treasures of passive memory to recall things new and old, are called the primary and the secondary laws of association. Ideas and actions have relation to time, and connect with each other like links in a chain. Sometimes we perceive the connection between the ideas which memory recalls, at other times we do not; and yet there is some connection, just as when a row of balls is struck at one end, the force is transmitted through them, and the ball at the other end takes up the motion and the journey of the impinging ball.
4. But if memory is thus complete and deathless—as without doubt it is—some one may ask, “How is it possible for any to go from an imperfect life, with its imperishable record, and derive any pleasure from its contemplation?” I answer: “In the life of heaven love will predominate, and by the laws of association it will bring forth from the storehouse only such reminiscences as are pure and holy.” Conclusion: In view of all this, how wise and necessary for our future happiness to fill the present life and its passing moments with kind words, upright thoughts, and useful actions. And, on the other hand, will not the memory of an evil life, if unchecked by grace and unrestrained by holy love, constitute a source of keenest misery? Will not a deathless memory work upon the quickened conscience, and gnaw like a worm that never dieth, or burn like a fire that is never quenched? (L. O. Thompson.)
Materials for a future judgment in the constitution of the human mind
The argument from memory for a future judgment is powerful, because, on every excursion of the mind into the past, there is now a judgment of conscience, and an expectation of a righteous award. Now if there be within the circle of our natural knowledges or capacities the prediction of any event, we look inevitably for some grounds of the prediction, or some signs that it is a probability, and that the event promised will take place. If it be rumoured among the people of a vast city that a new and magnificent Hall of Justice is to be built, and if there be seen a multitude of workmen collecting materials at the stated place of the proposed building, those materials are a strong proof of the truth of the common rumour. And just so, when the conscience of all mankind tells of a judgment to come, and we see how the materials for that judgment are accumulating, and the demand and necessity for it increasing, and how the busy memory is occupied with collecting and arranging those materials, the proof becomes very strong; the common rumour of the world and of the individual conscience is so corroborated, that one who looks fairly at the light of nature, even apart from that of Revelation, cannot doubt. And every instance of the power of memory, every elucidation of the laws under which the mind acts in its operations of remembrance, and every instance of the manner in which conscience accompanies this work, affords additional conviction. The first instance we shall give of the involuntary power of memory, is that noted one presented by Coleridge, which shall be related mainly in the words and with the conclusions of that eminent man. The fact that the case may be so familiar to some of our readers as to be almost a truism does not lesson its importance. A young woman, he says, of four or five-and-twenty, who could neither read nor write, was seized with a nervous fever, during which the priests and monks in the neighbourhood supposed that she became possessed of the devil. She continued incessantly talking Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, in very pompous tones, and with most distinct enunciation. The case had attracted the particular attention of a young physician, and by his statement many eminent physiologists and psychologists visited the town, and cross-examined the case on the spot. Sheets full of her ravings were taken down from her own mouth, and were found to consist of sentences coherent and intelligible each for itself, but with little or no connection with each other. Of the Hebrew, a small portion only could be traced to the Bible; the remainder seemed to be in the Rabbinical dialect. A trick or conspiracy was out of the question. Not only had the young woman ever been a harmless, simple creature, but she was evidently labouring under a nervous fever. In the town of which she had been a resident for many years, as a servant in different families, no solution presented itself. The physician, however, determined to trace her past life, step by step; for the patient herself was incapable of returning a rational answer. He searched out the place of her nativity, and from a surviving uncle learned that the patient had been charitably taken by an old Protestant pastor at nine years of age, and had remained with him some years, till his death. Of this pastor the uncle knew nothing, but that he was a very good man. With great difficulty he at length discovered a niece of the pastor’s, who had lived with him as his housekeeper, and had inherited his effects, and who remembered the girl. Anxious inquiries were made concerning the pastor’s habits, and the solution of the phenomenon was soon obtained. For it appeared that is had been his custom for years to walk up and down a passage of his house, into which the kitchen door opened, and to read to himself with a loud voice out of his favourite books. A considerable number of these were still in the niece’s possession. She added, that he was a very learned man, and a great Hebraist. Among the books were found a collection of Rabbinical writings, together with several of the Greek and Latin Fathers; and the physician succeeded in identifying so many passages with those taken down at the young woman’s bedside, that no doubt could remain in any rational mind concerning the true origin of the impression made on her nervous system. “This authenticated case,” Coleridge concludes, “furnishes both proof and instance that relics of sensation may exist for an indefinite time in a latent state, in the very same order in which they were originally impressed; and as we cannot rationally suppose the feverish state of the brain to act in any other way than as a stimulus, this fact, and it would not be difficult to adduce several of the same kind, contributes to make it even probable that all thoughts are in themselves imperishable; and that, if the intelligent faculty should be rendered more comprehensive, it would require only a different and apportioned organization, the body celestial instead of the body terrestrial, to bring before every human soul the collective experience of its whole past existence. And this, perchance, is the dread book of judgment, in whose mysterious hieroglyphics every idle word is recorded. Yea, in the very nature of a living spirit, it may be more possible that heaven and earth should pass away, than that a single act, a single thought, should be loosened or lost from that living chain of causes, to all whose links, conscious or unconscious, the free will, our only absolute self, is coextensive and copresent.” This last remark respecting the copresence of the will in all our intelligent life, conscious or unconscious, is of the utmost solemnity and importance. Dr. Abercrombie relates another example, which he puts under the phenomena of dreams, but which is in reality a development of memory. It occurred with one of his own intimate friends, a gentleman connected with one of the principal banks in Glasgow. He was at his place at the teller’s desk, when a person entered, demanding payment of the sum of six pounds. There were several waiting, who were entitled to be attended to before him; but he was extremely impatient, and rather noisy; and being likewise a remarkable stammerer, he became so annoying that another gentleman requested the teller to pay him his money and get rid of him. He did so, accordingly, but with an expression of impatience at being obliged to attend to him before his turn, and thought no more of the transaction. At the end of the year the books of the bank could not be made to balance, the deficiency being exactly six pounds. He spent days and nights in endeavouring to discover the error, but without success; when at last one night retiring to bed much fatigued, he dreamed of being at his place in the bank, where the transaction with the stammerer passed before him in all its particulars. He found on examination that the sum paid had not been inserted in the book of accounts, and that it exactly amounted to the error in the balance. His memory, which had failed him during the day, had wrought during sleep with perfect exactness. This was simply an instance of the revival of old associations, which had passed for a season from the mind and been forgotten. Thus it is that all mistakes in our accounts for eternity, arising from forgetfulness here, will be rectified when the mind acts with its full power in the spiritual world. The stars come out by night that were hidden by the day, and ten thousand thousand worlds of transactions and of consequences will be revealed in the firmament of man’s consciousness, when the delusions of time and sense shall have given way to the realities of eternity. From the experience of Niebuhr, the celebrated Danish traveller, Dr. Abercrombie relates an instance of the vividness with which, as the light of the day of this world is retiring, the past realities, that are to encircle our being in the judgment, throng upon the mind; whether they be scenes of innocent delight, or of guilt and terror. When old, blind, and so infirm that he was able only to be carried from his bed to his chair, he used to describe to his friends the scenes which he had visited in his early days, with wonderful minuteness and vivacity. When they expressed their astonishment, he told them that as he lay in bed, all visible objects shut out, the pictures of what he had seen in the East continually floated before his mind’s eye, so that it was no wonder he could speak of them as if he had seen them yesterday. With like vividness the deep intense sky of Asia, with its brilliant and twinkling hosts of stars, which he had so often gazed at by night, was reflected, in the hours of stillness and darkness, on his inmost soul. Now these were simply the beautiful images of nature, that, having once made their impressions on a sensitive soul, could never be forgotten. But if pictures daguerreotyped, as it were, upon the soul from abroad, can thus be reproduced after the lapse of a lifetime, as vivid as when the soul first received into its depths, as in a mirror, the reflection of the glory of God’s universe, how much more certainly, with how much greater exactitude, must everything which the mind itself has originated, every spontaneous movement of thought and feeling, every development of character, be treasured in the memory, to be reproduced when conscience calls for it! If Niebuhr’s memory had been filled with scenes of sin, or with the recollection of sensual and sinful pleasures, instead of those exquisite images of Oriental scenery, how intensely painful would his old age have been in the reproduction of such accumulated forms of evil, with conscience passing judgment on them all! Sometimes the acquisitions, the knowledges, of the earliest period of life, long utterly disused and forgotten, come suddenly and spontaneously again into power and exercise, as indestructible possessions of the soul. Sometimes it seems as if an invisible power were busy removing or replacing at will, as in a camera obscura, the pictures in the memory. Sometimes those that lie lowest, at the bottom of the pile, are placed uppermost, excluding all others, and sometimes the last drawn are the last seen. But how easy for the Divine Being, acting simply by the laws of the mind, to bid the soul stand still, and to draw forth before it, plate after plate, the impressions of every moment, hour, day, week, of existence, and let the conscience meditate upon it! And what an employment for a guilty and unpardoned soul! Even a single scene of guilt may fully arrest and occupy the mind for almost any period. There are cases of persons, whose sane and healthy action of mind has been disordered, having their consciousness arrested upon one single event or idea, and remaining involved in that event, or revolving that idea, for the period of near fifty years. This we call insanity. But suppose an immortal mind to stand thus petrified as it were in the eternal world for a similar interval of time, brooding in guilty consciousness over some one scene, idea, or act of guilt. Would not this be one of the direst images by which the mind can body forth its conceptions of the misery of hell? When the missionary, Mr. Moffat, had once been preaching to the natives in Africa, his attention was arrested by a young man in the midst of a group that had gathered around him, to whom he was preaching over from memory the sermon he had heard, imitating Mr. M.’s gestures, as well as repeating his language, with great solemnity. He repeated the sermon almost verbatim, and when Mr. Moffat remarked to him that he was doing what he himself could not have done, he did not appear conscious of any superior ability, but touched his forehead with his finger, and remarked, “When I hear anything great, it remains there.” By “great,” he evidently meant in the sense of solemnity as connected with the soul’s destiny in the eternal world. And indeed there is nothing great but with reference to eternity, nothing worth preserving or remembering but in its relation to that. But all things that have the stamp of that greatness remain there, as the poor untutored negro observed, there in the mind, and can never pass from the memory. The instances of memory we have presented are most of them involuntary, spontaneous; they are instances of power, of activity, which could not be checked or prevented. Had it been ever so much against the will of the master of the faculty, that would have made no difference. The busy operator, with the utmost indifference to the soul’s wishes, would have brought out and displayed the mind’s innumerable stores. It is no matter whether they be full of sin and shame, or such as the mind would delight to avouch and greet again as its creations or possessions. The memory does not ask whether the mind be pleased with them, but starts them into being. Nay, the more displeasing they are, the more certain they are to be recalled; for this is one manifest way in which the law of association acts, and anything which the mind greatly fears, is for that very reason held tight to it. If you put by an article of your experience, and say that it is proscribed, debarred from remembrance; if you say, I never wish to see that again, let it be buried and never have a resurrection—it may be a single word, deed, look, event, or incident—the very label which you put upon it, “never to be revealed,” the very burial service which you perform over it, the very act of your will, consigning it to eternal banishment and forgetfulness, secure its eternal existence and power over you. Your unwillingness to look at it compels you to look. Your dread and unwillingness give it, in fact, an additional, morbid, torturing action within you, and attraction over you. Hatred is, in some respects, a stronger bond than friendship. What we hate and dread we remember with a dreadful energy, and so long as the hatred and dread exist, the object of it cannot be forgotten. We have reason to believe that even to a guilty soul nothing will be more dreadful, more hateful, than the realities of past sins. The state of a man’s system in health may not attract his notice. It seems the very plenitude of health to be in such enjoyment of it, that no particular sensations excite notice. But let there be a festering wound in any organ in the system, and it shall excite more notice than the healthful state of the whole system besides. If there could be such a thing as a coal of living fire wound up as a ganglion in a man’s nervous system, it would compel and concentrate all his attention. But every sin, unforgiven, is such a coal of fire. The secretions of evil, of guilt, in our experience, are secretions of irritating, painful action, secretions of remorse, compelling the remembrance. The more painful they are, the more we would forget them; but of course the more we would forget them, the more certainly we remember them. We can quicken memory, but we cannot dispossess it of any of its stores, we cannot make ourselves forget. The very attempt at forgetfulness does but startle the memory. The involuntariness of memory is the security for its full and impartial action at the judgment. The involuntariness of memory grows out of the nature of the law of association. By this law of our being, one thing, by having been connected with another, suggests and recalls it. In this way all events and all thoughts may be so linked together that if one be preserved the whole are inevitably in existence. Now there being a connection between every thought and thing in God’s universe, and some other thought or thing, and between every experience in our nature and some other experience, it is impossible, under this law, but that all should come to light, impossible that anything whatever should be lost. If two persons, or things, or ideas, are seen but once in proximity or relation, the association may be weak; one may not now necessarily suggest the other. But if seen often, the association becomes so strong as to be inevitable and irresistible. Thus, if a man be a notorious drunkard, every time you see that man you will think of his habit of drunkenness; or if a man be a profane swearer, every time you see that man, or ever hear of him, you will think of his habit of profane swearing. The thought of a man conspicuous in a page of history which is well known, brings up the details of that history. What person ever thinks of William Tell, without seeing the child, the arrow, and the apple? If there be an alarm-bell, which we are accustomed to hear rung only on occasions of danger, the sound of the bell will always suggest the image of the danger; so, the moment we hear the fire-bell, the mind inevitably pictures the evil of which it is the warning. In the country, when the bell tolls slowly and at measured intervals, you instantly think of death and a funeral. On the other hand, the noise of sleigh-bells brings to the mind all ideas of life and activity; a bracing atmosphere, a fine road covered with snow, the laughter of merry parties, the health and activity of winter. Again, you can scarcely hear the sound of the violin, but it suggests the dance; of the drum, but it brings before you all the excitement and fury of war. A case of surgical instruments tells you of ghastly wounds. The smell of camphor in a room makes you inquire if any one be ill; so does the sight of a physician entering the house. These arc common instances of the operation of the law of association, in regard to things seen or known in connection or relation. It is a law, which, even viewed merely in an external operation, as a cord, binding our knowledges in bundles, may be as powerful for evil as for good. We may lay hold upon it for the accomplishment of a happy and useful training of the mind and heart, or an education in all folly and misery. The law of association is at the foundation of most of our prejudices and superstitions. Children, whose minds are filled with nursery tales of ghosts and goblins, are afraid to be left alone in the dark; darkness has become associated in their mind with frightful images. Now it is possible to conceive of its being associated wish nothing but images of security and repose. The degree of activity and wideness of sweep in this law, in different minds, may make a genius out of one person, a dull plodder out of another. It has much to do with the development and power of the imagination. The might and majesty of its action, amidst sublime materials, may be seen in the poetry of Milton, whose imagination combined, in such intensity and comprehensiveness, the associative and aggregative faculty. The constitution of the mind of John Foster was remarkable in this respect. His associations were intensely vivid, so that words affected him with all the power of realities. In one of his Essays he speaks of a young person (and he is supposed to refer to himself, at a period when he was enchanted with the stories of Gregory Lopez and other recluses), with whom at any time the word “hermit “was enough to transport him, like the witch’s broom-stick, to the solitary hut, surrounded by shady, solemn groves, mossy rocks, crystal streams, and gardens of radishes. The words “woods” and “forests” are said to have produced in his mind the most powerful emotion. In one of his letters he says, “I have just been admiring the marvellous construction of the mind, in the circumstance of its enabling me, as I sit by my candle here, in a chamber at Chichester, to view almost as distinctly as if before my eyes, your house, the barn, the adjacent fields, neighbouring houses, and a multitude of other objects. I can go through each part of the house, and see the exact form of the looms, tables, maps, cakes of bread, and so on: down to my mother’s thimble. Yet I still find myself almost three hundred miles off. At present I take no notice of the things now about me; but perhaps at some future time, at a still greater distance, I may thus review in imagination the room in which I now write, and the objects it contains; and I find that few places where I have continued some time can be thus recollected without some degree of regret; particularly the regret that I did not obtain and accomplish all the good that was possible at that place, and that time. Will it be so, when hereafter I recollect this time, and this place?” This is exceedingly striking, and we are here brought from mere external things, whether of knowledge or imagination, to inward experiences, the voice of conscience, the goings on of our inward and permanent being. Here it is, and in the circle of the sweep of connection between the moral responsibilities of that permanent being and the world around us, that the law of association acts for eternity; and if it be true, as Wordsworth declares, that the faculty of imagination was given us to incite and support the eternal part of our being, equally true it is that the associative law and faculty bears reference to the same. It is with reference to the responsibilities and realities of eternity, and to the materials which we ourselves have gone on voluntarily providing for eternity, that it possesses such indestructible and unlimited dominion. Without this law, the memory would be a thing of chance, a perfect chaos. By this law, all things are connected, so connected, that, begin at whatever part of the chain you may, be sure of whatever link you please, all the rest will follow, or may be regained. There can be nothing lost, nothing forgotten. But this law is not that of mere connection, by evident and known links of circumstances; it is also that of suggestion. One idea, or train of ideas, that may have been introduced by direct connection with some present person or thing, shall suggest to the mind another, by mere resemblance or contrast, or by an abrupt transition, of which, at the time, we can give no account. The causes by which the law of association is thus rendered active and powerful are multitudinous almost beyond computation. And they respect almost equally the power and activity of memory, and the processes of present thought. If I see a face resembling that of a dear absent or departed relative or friend, I say, it reminds me of that beloved individual; it may also suggest to me a thousand busy thoughts in the present or for the future. Now the occasions on which this suggestive power is exercised are as multiplied as the experiences of our being. The various innumerable and interminable relations between external things, cause and effect, resemblance and contrast, nearness of time and place, position, preceding or succeeding, high or low, first or last, order or disorder; and in moral and intellectual processes and experiences, the same and other relations, influenced and varied by everything that can have power in building up our being, in developing our character; as the home and discipline of childhood, the instructions and examples of the family circle, the tenor of our pursuits and studies, the books read, the kind of minds conversed with, the habits of sentiment, opinion, feeling, action, formed and indulged; all these are occasions and influences, on and under which the law of association works. The part which this law of association, therefore, is to play in men’s future judgment, and in the determination of their state for eternity, is evident. Without it, except by an external manifestation of things, as in a book, there could be no judgment, and but a weak self-condemnation. If, for example, when a man sees a fellow-being with whom, in time past, he has had transactions, the sight of that person did not recall those transactions, if each particular were a thing to be remembered by itself, and had no associating links of thought and feeling, no power of relation to bring up other things, a man might meet a person whom he has greatly injured, and yet not meet again the memory of that injury. A man might meet another, against whom he has borne false witness, so as to fill the slandered man’s life with misfortune and misery, and yet might feel little or no compunction at the meeting, because of the want of this law of association, whereby things that have been together, or related together, suggest each other. Accordingly, because of the weakness of this law of association in some persons, there is a great defect in memory; and of course the vividness of one’s recollections must be greatly dependent on the energy and power with which this law acts. A man’s compunction or remorse for sin will depend greatly on his remembrance of the circumstances and feelings with which the sin was committed. And if by any means it could be possible to evade this law of association, if you could break up the inevitable chain that connects every part of a man’s being with all his feelings and memories, and with him every creature and thing he has ever had to do with, if you could loosen some link, and part the series, then a man’s condemnation and misery on account of sin might be not so inevitable, that is, his self-condemnation, and his misery from compunction and remorse. So much of the essence of this article of remorse depends on the remembrance of things in their order and connection, on the remembrance of associated feelings, on the remembrance of little circumstances that surrounded any act, and made up what might be called the scenery of it, that if a man could succeed in getting rid of these, if he could break the links of association, if he were not bound inevitably and for ever to them, or if he could make a chaos or confusion out of them, he would be comparatively secure. But there is no possibility of this. In being judged, a man is to be thrown back, not on the bare recollection of his sins, but on all the circumstances and feelings in and with which they were committed. Not merely the sin will be remembered, but all the then reproaches of conscience, all the light under which it was committed, all the self-deception exercised will be made plain, all the aggravations of the sin will come to view, and all the dreadful feelings that followed it will be renewed and deepened. Every sin of injury against others, against the feelings of others, against the interests of others in any way, will be connected with all the materials of compunction and remorse that preceded, accompanied, or grew out of it. And sometimes little circumstances, or what seemed little at the time, shall have extraordinary power, be invested with a world of feeling and of meaning. A single look, a single word, a circumstance that passed like a flash of lightning, shall have meaning and feeling enough connected with it to be dwelt upon for ever and ever. We might consider this in the case of the murderer; a dying word, a dying look of his victim, shall have more horror to him in the recollection, than the bare remembrance of his crime could ever have. And there may be cases in which the exercise of a cruel, severe, or hard-hearted disposition, the turning away from the cry of a fellow-being in distress, the infliction of a pang on the feelings by a cruel or contemptuous word, shall be followed by the face of the man so grieved, by the picture of the wounded spirit, with the arrow festering in it, in the soul of the sinner, to dwell there for ever. For it must be that every injury shall have a time for its revenge; every violence done to the feelings, or the welfare of others, shall be perfectly remembered, and in this very way memory shall have its revenge. So that a dying murdered man, if he wished for eternal vengeance on his murderer, wished to make it secure beyond escape and for ever, and had the command over the mind of the assassin to write there whatever he pleased through eternity, need only say that one word, “remember.” And every poor, oppressed bondman, and every individual helplessly borne down by a man greedy of gain, and every creature, indeed, unjustly treated in any way, need only say, “remember.” For this law of association makes such remembrance eternally perfect. And this law, though it be less active and apparently less perfect now in some persons than in others, and sometimes exceedingly deficient, yet is perfect and universal in the very structure of our being; and when the peculiar causes that now hinder its perfect operation in some minds shall be removed, will bring everything together. We often look with surprise in this world at some men’s carelessness in regard to sin, at the hardness of their conscience, at the utter absence of conviction. It is principally because this law of association is not now in active operation in regard to the past. And hence a man sometimes thinks he has escaped from his past sins, or that the remembrance of them, if it comes, will not be so severe and terrible, the consciousness of them not so fresh, so lively, so powerful. But it will. And, moreover, there are things on which, at the time, he dwelt but for a moment, flashes of thought and feeling, gone as soon as experienced, and movements of the soul covered and put out of view by other successive movements, on which he is to dwell, and which he is to experience again, at leisure. Flashes of thought, feeling, judgment, that passed at the time like lightning, although with a voice as of God’s thunder; he is to see them again and deliberately; he is to hear the peal again, and dwell upon it; he is to listen to the voice of conscience again, and dwell upon it. And he is to do this with larger associations still, a more comprehensive circle of associated considerations, than he then deemed himself encompassed by. His connections with the universe, his place under God’s government, his attitude in regard to God’s law, his place under the atonement, his relation to Jesus Christ, all his relations as a spiritual being, are to be dwelt upon. How the law of God, and the character of God, and the weight of his own infinite obligations to God were connected with his own sins, with every one of them, he did not care to consider, when he committed them. What light they threw upon them, how much more aggravated they made them than they were when considered merely with reference to society or to one’s self, he had not time, in the whirl of sin, to think of. What they were in the light of the cross of Christ, in reference to the suffering of Christ, in reference to the scheme of redemption, their associations with this scheme, and the condemnation they draw for ever from it, he had neither time nor inclination to examine. He would not have had inclination, if he had had time; and this was a part of the operation of the law of association, from which, above all else, if he had seen it, he would have desired to be released. But he will have plenty of time for its consideration. And the law of association in his mind will carry him, in all these directions, into an infinitude of conviction and remorse. In the direction toward God, as well as toward men, toward Christ as well as toward God, toward the law and the gospel, the associated relations, consequences, and condemnation of his sins will be boundless and eternal. This is the structure of our being. What subject, exclaimed Mr. Burke, on one occasion, does not branch out into infinity? This is especially the case with the moral relation of our being. We are fearfully and wonderfully made. How single circumstances connect worlds of dreadful meaning, we sometimes see developed in a striking manner. A man’s sins in this world are often like old forgotten, buried, coins. They have grown rusty and illegible. They are laid away in the mind like the lumber in the shop of an antiquary. But they all have an image and superscription. They have dates and hieroglyphics, full of meaning. And there is a process by which they may be restored. The rust can be rubbed from the surface, and by fire, if no way else, the letters can again be read. So it is with men’s forgotten sins. They are to have a resurrection. Some of them shall rise even with the body, shall pass from this earthly body into that spiritual body, which is to spring from it. For as the body that is laid in the grave is to be in some sense the germ of that body which is to be raised, so the character of the body which is to be raised shall be determined by the character of the body which is interred. He that soweth to his flesh, shall of the flesh reap corruption. Sin is the seed, sin and death shall be the harvest. Neither can the sins, which are not written in a man’s constitution, be forgotten, any more than those which, in their consequences in his spiritual body, are to rise with him in the resurrection. All shall come to light. The image and superscription shall be visible. The consideration of this law of our nature suggests some solemn admonitions, not only with reference to the inevitable memory and production of all our past experience at the judgment, but with reference to the character we are forming now. What are our habits of association? Do they bind us to God and salvation? Are we linked by them to the cross and the Saviour? We have the power to connect ourselves everlastingly with the elements of heaven or hell. A man may surround his soul with the scenery of either world, may live with fiends or angels beforehand. With what thoughts does he keep company? What are the habitual trains of association in his ideas and feelings? They bind him to themselves, whatever be their nature, every day, month, year, more closely, more unalterably, more indissolubly. If they are evil—and they are evil—if God be excluded from them, then they grow stronger and stronger, till a man is taken in his own iniquity, and holden with the cords of his sin. And at length it were as easy to change the very laws of nature as to change the current of association, which has become indissoluble habit. Of what infinite importance is it that the train of a man’s habitual associations be elevated and holy! Let him remember that his daily habits of association are his education for eternity. They may grow up and steal upon him as imperceptibly in progress as the green blade steals from the ground and passes into the ripe full corn in the ear, ready for the harvesting. But their daily tenor is developing and’ fixing his character for eternity. Therefore, with what tender care and mercy does God surround us with truths, providences, and influences, to win us to Himself, to gain for His love and grace the ruling place in our affections. (G. B. Cheever, D. D.)
The power of memory
The completeness of passive memory to receive and retain everything that comes in contact with the mind, even though it enter consciousness as faint as a ray of light from a star so remote that it twinkles one second and fades the next, is one of the interesting—shall I say startling?—discoveries of mental science. And the proof of this, though indirect, amounts to a demonstration.
1. A first fact is the wonderful power of recollection which some men are known to possess. Sir Walter Scott repeated a song of eighty-eight verses which he had never heard but once, and that, too, three years before. Woodfall, the stenographer, could report entire debates a week after they had been delivered in the House of Commons, and this without any help from writing. But instances like these need not be multiplied. In old age the scenes of childhood and youth reappear with startling clearness, and ofttimes the sins of youth are recalled by a terrified conscience.
2. A second fact is seen in the flood of memories which sudden danger brings to consciousness—the chief events of life, and, among these, things entirely forgotten. This is the experience of persons rescued from drowning or violent death. Admiral Beaufort states that during the moments of submergence every incident of his life seemed to glance across his recollection, not in mere outline, but the whole picture filled up with every minute and collateral feature. (L. O. Thompson.)
The boon of forgetfulness
Great sinners have even prayed for madness as a blessing, because they knew that memory would perish with the mind, of which it is a part. But nature was ever saying to them, “Son, remember.”
The intoxicating cup owes not a little of its fascination to its power of drowning hateful memories. Lord Byron says--
“I plunged amid mankind.
Forgetfulness I sought in all, save where ‘tis to be found,
And that I have to learn.”
“Oh, give me the art of oblivion,” cried Themistocles. A man once offered to teach a philosopher the art of memory for five talents. “I will give you ten talents,” was the reply, “if you will teach me the art of forgetting.” Very touching is the old-world fable that between earth and the happy plains of Elysium—the classical heaven—the river Lethe flows, and that whoever tastes its waters forgets all his past. The heathens knew that there could be no happiness hereafter unless somehow memory let go its hold of past sins. Gentle sleep owes its healing power to this, that it helps us to forget. Oh, to bury our dead past as men bury their dead out of their sight; for one sin vividly remembered has sometimes power to make the whole life bitter. “Forgetfulness,” it has been said, “is the daughter of time,” but our parable shows that she is not always the daughter of eternity, as forgetting is impossible to the unpardoned. (J. Wells.)
You can’t rub it out!
“Don’t write there,” said a little newspaper boy to a dandified youth, whom in the waiting-room of a railway station he saw about to scratch something with his diamond ring on a mirror that was hanging on the wall. “Don’t write there!” “Why not?” “Because you can’t rub it out!” So would I have you, my unconverted hearer, to be careful what you write, in your words and actions, on the tablets of your memory. You can’t rub it out! and as you think of that surely you will agree with me that “the time past of your lives may suffice to have wrought the will of the Gentiles.” (W. M. Taylor, D. D.)
Power of memory
It is the teaching of modern science that no force is lost in the universe. It may be changed into other forces, but its equivalent is perpetuated. Heat becomes motion, and motion stopped becomes heat. Hence any change in the universe must affect every part of the universe. The jar of the present moment shakes the world, and, Proctor says, all worlds. By your voice you set in motion currents of air which meet on the other side of the globe. No man can speak blasphemy or foulness even in privacy without having the whole universe for an audience. We are moved upon by physical influences, born ages ago, in the remotest domain of space. In like manner the forces which originate in this world affect all worlds. Nothing is lost in the hard domain of matter. Is it likely that anything is lost in the sensitive realm of mind? Let us not think that the mental history of our life is to be lost. Great libraries have been lost and scholars have wept, but the book of the human soul has not yet been destroyed, and all its obscure passages will yet be illumined. All that is needed is a sensation strong enough to bring the past to life. The judgment bar of Christ will make us remember. What a terrible retribution would be the giving of a lost soul to the contemplation of himself! With what anguish would he look on his own vanquished years! “Sad memory weaves no veil to hide the past.” Hour after hour, year after year, the past life is unfolded, and in the midst of that past he beholds the form of Jesus and seems to hear His words of sorrow and of doom:—“All thy life long have I stretched forth My hands to thee, and thou wouldest not.”
A great gulf
The bridgeless gulf
I. In trying solemnly to speak upon this matter, I shall commence with this—THERE IS NO PASSAGE FROM HEAVEN TO HELL—“They which would pass from hence to you, cannot.” Glorified saints cannot visit the prison-house of lost sinners. They did both grow together until the time of the harvest; it is not necessary, now that harvest has come, that they should lie together any longer. It were inconsistent with the perfect joy and the beatific state of the righteous, with its perfect calm and purity, that sin should be admitted into their midst, or that they should be permitted to find companionships in the abodes of evil. Those who are nearest and dearest must be divided from you, if you perish in your sins.
II. As we cannot go from heaven to hell, so the text assures us, “NEITHER CAN THEY COME TO US THAT WOULD COME FROM THENCE.” The sinner cannot come to heaven for a multitude of reasons. Among the rest, these:
1. First, his own character forbids it.
2. Moreover, not only does the man’s character shut him out, but also the sinner’s doom. What was it? “These shall go away into everlasting punishment.” If it is everlasting, how can they enter heaven?
3. Moreover, sinner, thou canst not go out of the prison-house because God’s character and God’s word are against thee. Shall God ever cease to be just?
III. But now, once again to change the subject for a few minutes, I have to notice in the third place, that while no persons can pass that bridgeless chasm, so NO THINGS CAN. Nothing can come from hell to heaven. Rejoice ye saints in light, triumph in your God for this—no temptation of Satan can ever vex you when once you are landed on the golden strand; you are beyond bowshot of the arch-enemy; he may howl and bite his iron hands, but his howling's cannot terrify and his biting's cannot disturb.
IV. Again, we change the strain for a fourth point, and this a terrible one. As nothing can come from hell to heaven, so nothing heavenly can ever come to hell. There are rivers of life at God’s right hand—those streams can never leap in blessed cataracts to the lost. Not a drop of heavenly water can ever cross that chasm.
1. See then, sinner, heaven is rest, perfect rest—but there is no rest in hell; unceasing tempest.
2. Heaven, too, is a place of joy; there happy fingers sweep celestial chords; there joyous spirits sing hosannah's day without night; but there is no joy in hell.
3. Heaven is the place of sweet communion with God.
4. There is no communion with God in hell. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The impassable gulf
There is in a forest in Germany a place they call the “deer-leap,” two crags about eighteen yards apart, between them a fearful chasm. This is called the “deer-leap,” because once a hunter was on the track of a deer; it came to one of these crags; there was no escape for it from the pursuit of the hunter, and in utter despair it gathered itself up, and in the death agony attempted to jump across. Of course it fell, and was dashed on the rocks far beneath. Here is a path to heaven. It is plain, it is safe, Jesus marks it out for every man to walk in. But here is a man who says, “I won’t walk in that path; I will take my own way.” He comes on until he confronts the chasm that divides his soul from heaven. Now his last hour has come, and he resolves that he will leap that chasm, from the heights of earth to the heights of heaven. Stand back, now, and give him full swing, for no soul ever did that successfully. Let him try. Jump! Jump! He misses the mark, and he goes down, depth below depth, “destroyed without remedy.” Men! angels! devils! what shall we call that place of awful catastrophe? Let it be known for ever as “the sinner’s death-leap.” (De W. Talmage, D. D.)
The state of the soul after death
I. DYING DOES NOT SUSPEND CONSCIOUSNESS. The Bible knows nothing of “dormant souls.” Death takes down the scaffolding, but not the edifice.
II. DYING DOES NOT EFFACE REMEMBRANCE OF THE LIVING. Thought speeds back to earth and earthly friends. Those on earth may forget the spirit world, but those in that world forget not earth.
III. DYING DOES NOT CHANGE CHARACTER. A physical change cannot affect moral quality.
IV. DYING BRINGS CONDITION AND CHARACTER INTO ACCORD. These two men, whose outward condition was so unlike, were equally different in character. When death came, each went to his own place, one to be “comforted,” because the germinant seeds of peace and love were in his own heart; the other to be “tormented,” because the devouring flames of unbelief and selfishness were in his own bosom.
V. DYING RENDERS THE CONDITION RESULTING FROM CHARACTER PERMANENT. Man may hope theft although he die impenitent, he will in the future life find some path to heaven. But the Bible points to none. The rich man had new light, but it did not make him penitent. It did not humble him for his sin. It did not banish his unbelief. It did not expel his selfishness. It did not fill his heart with love. It helped him to see, what perhaps he had before disbelieved, that life on earth is the only time to prepare for life beyond the grave. The only way to heaven is by coming into harmony with God."(P. B. Davis.)
In closing, having read this-ask yourself, who is Jesus, to you?
If you died today, would you go to heaven or hell? Jesus said He is the door, if anyone comes to Him, seeking forgiveness, mercy, and redemption from their sins-He will in no wise cast out.
Jesus stands at the door, waiting for you, I pray you'll open the door to your heart, and let Him in. Your decision, will seal your eternal destination.
Resource aides to this study:
The Screwtape Letters- C.S. Lewis-audio book
Mary K Baxter Explains Her Visions Of Heaven & Hell. Jesus Shows Her 40 Nights Of HELL https://youtu.be/OnWccqofFXI
May you find a source of sound spiritual food for your soul and spirit here.
Jesus Christ is Lord
I will worship toward thy holy temple, and praise thy name for thy lovingkindness and for thy truth: for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name.
In the day when I cried thou answeredst me, and strengthenedst me with strength in my soul.
All the kings of the earth shall praise thee,
O LORD, when they hear the words of thy mouth.
I had rather stand against the cannons of the wicked than against the prayers of the righteous.
available on Amazon