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1 CORINTHIANS, xv. 6.
The greater part remain unto this present, but some are
I BELIEVE that I have never spoken to you from this place immediately before our separations for the holidays, without feeling and expressing to you the solemn circumstance, that we who were so met together should never be assembled all together again. It is likely, indeed, that the same may be the case with any other congregation, if we go into it very strictly: it is possible that exactly the same persons, with none added to them and none wanting, may never be assembled twice in the same church in any parish in England. But we cannot, in any parish church, fix on any number of persons and say that they will never meet each
other in that same congregation again; or that if any of them are there again, the bulk of the congregation will surely be different; whereas here at the end of every half-year we know this to be
We know that it is next to an impossibility that even the majority of those who are leaving us should ever happen to return here at the same time ;-we know that very few of them are likely to return so soon, as not to find a remarkable change in the faces around them when they do return; and therefore those last Sundays of our half-year are always to my mind striking periods; they seem marked moments in the lives of those whom I am addressing, and so naturally do we see our own state in the lives of others, that they seem, also, even to the older part of our audience, times full of interest and warning.
This is natural, considering even no more than the usual course of events, and thinking merely of your approaching departure from school. On any thing farther I have generally forborne to dwell; because it seems better to insist upon what will certainly happen than on what may happen possibly, but which we can hardly call so much as probable. But when more has happened, when we find that our separation has not been only such as we naturally look for that it is not only next to impossible, but utterly so, that all who were here assembled at the end of last half-year, should
be ever so assembled again ; when not only the trials of school have been exchanged in many instances for the trials of after life, but the state of trial is passed altogether, and the eternal portion begun; when, in short, there has occurred since we were last met, a parting not only with school but with life, then indeed our meeting here is invested with something of a more peculiar solemnity.
You are all aware of the loss which we have sustained, and of the remarkably awful circumstances which attended it. Considering how much serious sickness had prevailed amongst us just before we parted, it certainly could not have been surprising had a more violent attack of the same disorder proved in some one case fatal. Considering also the disease which was then visiting the northern parts of the kingdom, it could not have been beyond expectation had one or two of our own number, who might be exposed to its ravages, fallen victims to it. But a death from no infectious disorder, from no exposure to an extraordinary pestilence, and where there had been no previous sickness of any kind, and no unhealthiness of natural constitution, this it was impossible to anticipate. It is one of those instances which God mercifully sends from time to time to remind us of the folly of carnal security; that no man and no boy has a right to say to himself, “ to-day or to-morrow I will go into such a city and continue there for a time, and then return to the place where I was before.” Indeed we ought to say, "If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this or that;” and not only to say so, but to bear deeply in our minds the real and important truth of what we are saying.
Sudden death is awful whenever it occurs, more awful in the case of a young man than in any other; most awful when it happens not by what is called an accident, but by a stroke so unseen, and so little to be guarded against, that it may well be called, in the language of our law, " the visitation of God." We know that we are fearfully and wonderfully made, but we do not much think about it; these cases, however, recall it to our minds most strongly, when that divine workmanship of our bodies which has gone on year after year silently and surely, unnoticed by us save in the mere pleasure of feeling ourselves well and strong and active, is at once stopped by the hand that set it in motion, and stopped as silently and surely as he had at first called it into action. It is very awful to see life put out in an instant amidst the full current of its youthful vigour, and put out in such a manner as to make it evident that it was in the very strength and liveliness of that current that the seed of death had been all the while preparing.
The shock to the body is awful; and what is it to the mind? You all know the lively spirits