On Visiting a Family in which a Sudden Death had Occurred.
My Dear Sir,
I am so particularly taken up by previous arrangements to-day, and, I fear, also to-morrow, that I shall not be able to see you again so soon personally as I could wish. But the scene of last night makes me very desirous of communicating with you some way or other. I was very thankful you invited me to witness it, for it was a truly impressive one, and eminently fitted to stir up in the heart of every behold a salutary feeling of the vain and transient character of our present pilgrimage; and I trust I felt that it is better to go to the house of mourning than to the house of feasting, for that is indeed the end of all men, and that the living may lay it to heart. In a disaster so big, and at the same time so sudden and unlooked for as that which has come upon yourself and family, it is impossible to minister any effectual consolation without you go to the root of the matter - everything short of that argument which embraces the great elements of religion, and eternity, and the soul, and its meetness for th eenjoyment of God in Heaven, is but superficial and vain.
The healing influence of time will bring round the mind an afflicted man even without Christianity to its wonted tone; but how desirable that our comfort should be secured on a better foundation, that it should come to a place int he heart not by the mere wearing away of sorrow, but by the firm suggestions of an understanding exercising itself on the realities of faith, and fetching from the Divine Word such considerations as will bring peace and the peaceable fruits of righteousness along with them.
You feel now what you never felt so nearly and so experimentally before, that the world ought never to be counted a place of rest. It is indeed a great delusion ever to feel otherwise; but still it is a delusion which is always hanging about us, and that attaches to the fallen and estranged state of our natures from God. At this moment the delusion is in your case for a time broken up. I prophesy that it will again return if there be no visitation of grace from on high - no anointing which remaineth - no favourable and abiding demonstration of the Spirit of God to advance your present feeling into a practical habit and principle of the soul. You are at this moment made most intimately and effectually to understand, that to lean upon the world is to lean up on a foundation of dust; that to build your tabernacle here, is to build your house upon the sand; and that nothing will fill and satisfy the soul and enable it to stand all the changes and vicissitudes of this eventful pilgrimage, but a renouncing of the world as our home, and taking the inheritance that endureth for ever as our portion.
I know nothing that more effectually hinders a man from venturing his all on Christ than that divided state of affections in either of which he would like to reserve a portion to himself. "You will not come unto me that you may have life." You never, my dear Sir, were in more favourable circumstances for an unqualified resignation of all into His hands than at this moment; to whom else, alas, can you go?
You never got so buried to the world as now when the dearest of all its objects has been torn away from you - when the desire of your heart has been cut down by a stroke - when your family are all in sad grief, desponding under the pressure of a great unlooked for and overwhelming visitation. Do improve the favourable season with all your might to be a new creature in Christ Jesus; let all old things be done away, andd all things become new; the very retirement will animate and bear you up under the heaviness of your present circumstances, and present calamity will indeed be a blessing in disguise if it lead you to a close alliance with Him who, though a God, is also a Saviour.
I am, &c.,
Chalmers, Thomas Letters of Thomas Chalmers (Carlisle: Banner of Truth, 2007), 464-466 [I edited this for clarity in reading.]