« PreviousContinue »
to come unto me, said the divine Saviour; and they are now gone unto him. Their angels do now behold the face of their heavenly Father. Sometimes infants are taken away, for a trial of the faith of parents. The idol is removed, that they may set their affections on things above. And if we are as innocent as a little child, it is no matter how soon we may die. But if we continue in sin, it had been better for us, if we had died even before we were born.
7. It is well, that man knoweth not his time. If the wicked knew the bounds of their life, they would presume; if the timorous knew, they would be unfitted to attend to the duties of time. It is therefore left secret with Him, who holdeth the keys of life and death. It is likewise left for us to be always ready. And why should we be so attached to a world of sin and suffering? A world, where pain lies hid behind the screen of pleasure, and disappointment behind success; where evils can be increased, and good be taken away; where endeavours end without performance, and performances without satisfaction; and where knowledge, misimproved, will add to condemnation ? Why should we cleave to a world, in which hopes are deceitful, pleasures cloying, and possessions fugitive? A world, where one is troubled with the restlessness of the young, another with the peevishness of the old; where one forgets God in the hurry of business, and another in the whirl of dissipation. A world, in fine, in which 'small offences may raise enemies, and great benefits not always gain friends; where we find ourselves courted by interest, and forsaken by ingratitude; where we see those we love daily falling into the grave, and ourselves considered as aliens and strangers by the rising generation ?' But, however we may value human friendships, and human acquisitions, they are overrated, because they want durability. They soon leave us. And, what is as unsatisfactory, if they do not leave us, we leave them. While we are enjoying these heartless scenes, time is flying, the sands are running. Our life is passing away as the trace of a cloud. Let each one sit down, and count up all the departed friends he can remember. How few of us are there, who have not lost some relation, or valued friend,
even in the past year. It is nearly incredible, that we can see the almost daily descent into the grave of those we love or fear; that we can see property changing owners, and houses changing tenants; and yet not wish and seek for a more abiding city. But we are bound down to the world by many cords. And if the trials and afflictions of life, the pains of body and anxieties of mind, and bereavement of friends, cut these cords, one after another, as they are designed to do, and loosen us from the world, we shall have reason to thank God for them, as among his blessings. Even if it be like cutting the heart-strings, it is to cut us loose from the enemy of our souls.
8. However gloomy, or dangerous, or barren, the prospect in our pilgrimage of life, we should not shun to go forward with our eyes open, and to know our state. To him, who putteth off repentance, the time is shorter, the work greater, and the strength less. He has more sins to repent of, stronger habits to be resisted, and less power to withstand them. Habits are formed by repeated acts, and therefore old habits are the strongest. They entwine themselves into all our thoughts and passions, and are quitted with much difficulty. Therefore, we should be very careful and zealous to form and preserve good desires, and religious habits. We should remember, that the sting of death is sin. We should remember also, that 'death has shut its sting into our Saviour's side; there left it; there lost it.' Let us then accept that Saviour, and be ready to follow him into that world, where there is neither death, nor sin. We should be, not only habitually, but actually ready for the coming of our Lord. The summons will soon come, 'Arise, and depart hence, for this is not your rest, for it is polluted.' Are you able to hear it? Death often comes suddenly. How many are arrested by a fever; how many fall in a fit; how many go to bed, and wake not; how many go on a journey, and faint by the way; or go to sea, and return no more. And if death do not come suddenly, if you are left to grow old, and then to linger, and pine, and consume away upon your bed, in your own house, amid physicians and friends, it will come surely. A voice from the grave is daily calling, Return, ye chil
dren of men. Watch therefore, for ye know not at what hour your Lord doth come, whether at midnight, or at cock-crowing. The deceased has gone to meet his God; ye living, prepare to meet your God. The grave will soon be ready for you; are you ready for the grave?
9. O! my living friends, ye who are yet the spared monuments of the Lord's sparing mercy, when death comes, how cheap, how little worth, will appear the objects of this world; the farm and the merchandize, the gold and the silver, and the goods laid up for many years. Nothing will then stand by you but religion. No matter to the deceased now, what was his fame, who were his relations, what houses and servants he possessed, nor what was the cause or manner of his death. Ah no! if only he has his name written upon the white stone; if he has entered that house not made with hands, if angels claim him as a brother, if he wears a robe of righteousness, if he enjoys that rest which remaineth for the people of God, all else is lighter than vanity. If our deceased friend has slept in Jesus, if the death of his body has proved the birth of his soul, he now knows more of happiness than the happiest man on earth; and his knowledge will be growing, and his bliss increasing, while the heavens endure, even for ever and for evermore. We rejoice, that there remaineth to the living, and to the dead, the same God. But we tremble when we reflect, that only the pure in heart can see God. Where then shall the profane, the scoffer, the unclean, the sabbath breaker, the dishonest, the self-righteous, the worldly minded, appear? O where, in the day of searching? Theirs is the hope of the hypocrite. It shall perish. If we are not fit for heaven, we are not fit for death.
10. When the body is committed to the ground, we should not view it as lost. It is not dead, but sleepeth. It shall awake in the morning of the resurrection. The time will come, at the last trump, when the sinews and the flesh shall come upon the dry bones in the valley of the church-yard, even although they be very many, and very dry, and the skin shall cover them, and the breath shall come into them, and they shall live. Then shall our brother arise. A power stronger than death, and
higher than nature, shall raise him up. I am the Resurrection and the Life, saith the Redeemer; he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live. As the dying body before exclaimed, O death, where is thy sting? it will then cry, O grave, where is thy victory? But to enter the realms of glory, before the body has a mortal resurrection, the soul must have a spiritual resurrection. The soul, which has been long dead in trespasses and sins, must be quickened by the Spirit of God, and rise to newness of life. And unless we rise to newness of life in this world, it were happy for us if we might never rise at all, in the world to come. For there is also a resurrection unto damnation.
11. O how many, on a dying bed, have repented of beginning religion too late; none ever repented of beginning it too early. Let us then be up and doing, while the day of probation lingereth. Let us not write our good resolutions upon the sand, which the returning tide of worldly cares, and carnal pleasures, will wash out into forgetfulness. What will avail resolutions without performances, and self-reproach without reformation. He that washeth himself, after the touching of a dead body, if he touch it again, what availeth his washing? So is it with a man that fasteth for his sins, and goeth again, and doeth the same: who will hear his prayer? and what doth his humbling profit him? We must not only see the evil of sin, and sincerely hate it; not only see the beauty of holiness, and ardently desire it; but we must possess that lively faith, which will produce good works. We must bring forth the fruits of the Spirit, love, peace, humility, charity, and forbearance. We must love the day, the worship, and the ordinances of God. We must delight to seek out, and to do, the will of God. We must study and follow the precepts of the Gospel. We must, after all is done, feel ourselves to be but unprofitable servants, and cast ourselves upon God's mercy, through his crucified Son. This must we, each of us, do speedily and earnestly and unceasingly, if we would hereafter enter that high and holy and happy place, where there is no more sin, nor pain, nor parting, nor graveyards,
12. My friends, the celebration of a funeral is not a barren, unavailing solemnity. It is designed for the consolation of sorrow, and for the strengthening of piety. The beholding of a dead body, whether of friend or foe; the bare beholding of a dispirited corpse, is the loudest sermon that could be preached by man or angel. If you are not moved by one gone to the dead, you would not be moved though one rose from the dead. Let those then, who came here weeping and mourning, begin to weep and mourn also for themselves, if not prepared to follow. And let those, if any can be, who came unconcerned, and merely to view the funeral obsequies, reflect that before long, others, we hope not equally indifferent, will be assembled to view the sad spectacle of their obsequies. Man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets. Therefore, be ye also ready, for in such an hour as ye think not, the Son of man cometh. Blessed are the dead, who die in the Lord; for though the righteous be punished in the sight of men, yet is their hope full of immortality; and having been a little chastised, they shall be greatly rewarded; for God has proved them, and found them worthy for himself. The Lord looketh on the heart, and judges righteous judgment. He hears the prayer, which perhaps the voice never uttered; he records the purpose, which perhaps perished for want of opportunity of action. O thou, who livest while mortals die! to know thee is perfect righteousness; yea, to know thy power is the root of immortality. Under all our bereavements, wilt thou be our friend, our father, our guide, our life, our health, our rest, our chief joy. Give us a new nature, and new affections. Above all, so teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto religious wisdom.
13. Does any one flatter himself that he can love God, and yet live in sin? How presumptuous! The love of God and the love of the world are like the two scales of a balance; as the one rises, the other falls.' Do not comfort yourselves, that you may live in sin here, and live in holiness hereafter. Doth not a parent punish his child, and a master his servant, for disobedience? and shall not a just God punish his children, his servants, for sin?