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moment the souls of the blessed have passed, in one brief second of time, one beat only of the great pulse of nature, into the everlasting light that lies beyond. How often to the saints Death is allowed to be the one single door of escape from the constant fret of care and sorrow and from the burden of the cross, which had been their discipline and lifelong companion till it had become almost endeared to them as a familiar friend, whose honest, sharp tongue had often saved them greater misery ;-yes, as a friend who can be even missed when the long farewell has been said, because of the many debts we have owed to its chastening and sanctifying virtue. But that sweet, stern presence is needed no longer, and the kindly hand of Death unlooses the tight bands of the cross, perfectly healing the soul, which has meekly and patientiy carried, after Christ, the blessed burden of consecrated suffering. In our dying, Death, the last trial of the soul, dies also, expiring with our last sob, and breathing upon us no
curse but the benediction of an eternal peace. Surely it is Death, then, that dies; for the soul lives henceforth with God in the blessed Life. The spiritual life outlives the mere accident of death. There only died, in the brief moment of any holy and religious death, the pains, the weariness, and the weakness of this imperfect life. Death in Christ, with its magical touch, with its wonderful alchemy, clarifying and refining the interior spiritual life from its alloys of infirmity, and unloosing the soul from the impediments of the flesh, has empowered it with new activities, so that, being richly and eternally dowered with love and grace, there is a removing of all the weary slowness and all the unresponsive coldness of the former life. Nor will our initiation into the supernatural Life be the quenching of the pure and gentle fires of natural love, but their refinement only from the grosser fuel of selfishness and from those coarser elements of disposition and temperament, that have, so sadly often, mingled with the pure brightness of love in God the yellow, dusky flames of human impulse and passion. In that most blessed life, where only 'hearts are of each other sure,'* perfect confidence and trust reign supreme, to the exclusion of all suspicion and uncertainty; and love can spend its wealth without the bitter pain of shrinking back into itself unrequited, uncared-for in all its lavishnient, and without fear of the wounds of misrepresentation or the worse gashes of a jealous rivalry
When now the soul, by the grace of Christ, has but just passed safely by the slippery ways of death and through the gate of destiny into its 'middle home' with God, may we fancy it half-turning to take one last and farewell glance at all it leaves behind ? This, indeed, may not be imagined if the final step over the mysterious threshold has been taken in a state of coma or unconsciousness.
But sometimes the upward glance to the Face of Christ may possibly be followed by one look into the past,—the irrevocable past. The soul may half-turn to look again upon its own spiritual history, with the varied discipline of life now sealed and ended, which may then stand discovered by the unsealing of the inward eyes in death, till all is seen by an instantaneous illumination, and all is transfigured into that clear and luminous meaning, with which Death, the revealer and interpreter, invests the past ways of this former life. For every soul, passing through this life to God, is necessarily attended by mercy and judgment, by discipline, joy, and sadness; and though Sorrow, being more full of that twilight which has itself most of God, will lead us, therefore, most within the doors of His love, where we are comforted when the chills and damps arise in the world without, yet Joy is really eldest and most like to the life of the Divine beatitude. Sorrow, indeed, must die, but even the life of perfected gladness may weep some last tears over the closing eyes of Sorrow as over a sister's bier, and may preserve the vestments of the dead as a gentle memorial of the many blessings given by the cross-bearing angel of sadness in the life of our mortality. These memories, if they do not subdue, will at least soften with the beautiful sober colours of transfigured sorrow, which was once God's almoner, and had been sent to enrich us with many spiritual gifts, the glory of our eternal happiness.
* The beautiful expression of Keble in the Christian Year.'
What, then, shall be the attitude of the soul when, newly emancipated from the burden and weariness of the flesh, it receives welcome into the rest of Paradise ?—when it lies, like an infant with wondering eyes, newly born into the unknown Life, and scarcely realizing the surprise of its passage over death and of its first flight into the safe garden and grove of God ? Surely an attitude half-penitential, wholly adoring, as it kneels before the the Feet of the Glorified Christ, with a hungry stretching forth also of its arms to receive His first embrace of love, until, having so knelt to worship, it is then called to rest upon His Heart in an everlasting peace. We can have no sympathy with those who speak of a blessed death as wholly a triumph. A victory, indeed, it is, but seldom a triumph, and always united with a deep contrition, not unfrequently also with wounds and weakness, and always with humiliation and selfabasement. Surely, the only seemly attitude for the passing soul of a sinner, although absolved, is that of a penitent, sackcloth-vested and with earth and ashes on its head; justified, indeed, and wholly forgiven, but looking from the Face to the open wounds of Him, who by His Passion-sorrows has changed the dreadful gloom of the gate of death into the brightness of the eternal morning; for there is perpetual sunrise upon the further side of this gate to all, whose hearts have been once enlightened by the mystical light of Christ.
Such, at least, was the posture in which the saints of other, more faithful and heroic, ages, met with death, even the glorious death and victory of martyrdom. We seem to see the procession of blessed souls passing by us in the stories of those faithful deaths, every soul going forth with its beautiful face deeply furrowed with tears and keenly engraven with the lines of pain and contrition. Witness the last days of St. Augustine,* lying in his dying chamber, its silence seldom invaded by the half-timid footfall of those who ministered to his weakness, but often broken by the sweet, sad sound of falling tears, as his failing eyes read the seven Penitential Psalms, legibly written by his desire upon the white, unhung walls. Witness, also, the great company of the martyrs, whether of primitive or later times. How infinitely touching is the last prayer of that marvellous martyr of the early Syrian Church of Edessa, Sharbil, † the story of whose sufferings almost passes belief. After enduring unparalleled tortures, both in their variety, length, and anguish—the iron combs (the terrible ‘ungulæ'), the scourges, and many other horrible torments— for the sake of Christ, who had secretly caused His light to arise’ upon his soul, (we quote the martyr's words), and who had 'taken his heart captive' in love ; torments 'out of the very
bitterness of which will spring up for me' (he says) 'fountains of everlasting deliverance in the day of the eternal sentences ;' the pathetic story of this primitive martyrdom I continues : ‘And
* Tom. xi, p. 342.
I This event occurred in the fifteenth year of Trajan, i.e., A.D. 112. The Syrian MSS. were brought, not fifty years ago, from the Nitrian Monastery in Lower Egypt. It is only honest to confess that Bishop Lightfoot (* Apost. Fathers,' i., pp. 66-69) denounces the whole story in no measured terms as a crude forgery. But Cureton and others have believed it genuine.
forthwith a strap was thrust into his mouth, and the executioners made him run quickly upon his burned feet without the city, a crowd running after him ; for they had been standing looking on at his trial all day, wondering that he did not suffer under his afflictions, for his countenance, which was cheerful, testified to the joy of his heart. And they offered him some wine to drink, and instead he asked for a little time to pray.
And he stood and looked towards the east, and said : "Forgive me, O Christ, all the sins I have committed against Thee, and the polluted sacrifices of dead idols,* and have pity on me, and save me, and deliver me from the judgment to come, and be merciful to me, as Thou wast merciful to the thief, and receive me like one of the penitents who have been converted unto Thee; and whereas I have entered Thy vineyard at the eleventh hour, instead of judgment, deliver me from justice. Let Thy Death, which was for the sake of sinners, restore again in the day of Thy Coming my slain body to life.” Then the pathetic relation proceeds: 'And while'the nails were still remaining, driven in between his eyes, and his ribs were seen between the wounds of the iron cornbs, and while from the burning on his sides and feet and the tearings of the combs on his face and sides the blood was running down, they brought carpenters' instruments and thrust him into a wooden vice until the joints creaked with the pressure, and so they put upon him a saw of iron and began sawing him in sunder. And Babai, his sister, drew near, and said : "May my spirit be united with thy spirit in the presence of Christ, whom thou hast known and believed !” And the judges commanded that she also should die; and, torture, her soul took its flight from her, and they mingled her blood with his.' Compare with this story of heroical faith that of Bishop Hooper's martyrdom and his prayer of humble
He had been chief of the heathen priesthood in Edessa.