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RESPECTABLE AUDIENCE, I RISE to address you upon a most solemn occasion; an oc
casion which forces the conviction on me, that, as well the
speaker, as the hearer, must die. It was the desire of the deceased, while yet alive, that, at his
funeral, a discourse might be delivered adapted to solemnize the mind, and benefit the living; but not to panegy
rize the dead. Your attention is therefore requested to that passage of in
spiration, recorded in
II. TIMOTHY iv. 6.
departure is at hand. THESE are the words of Paul the great apostle of the Gentiles, in which he has a special reference to himself. Though he was educated in the Pharisaic system of religion, yet, by the astonishing grace of God towards him, he was powerfully constrained to renounce that system, and to embrace the religion of the Gospel. Not only did Paul become friendly at heart to Christianity, and zealous for the faith he once destroyed, but was advanced to the office of an apostle, to which he devoted his life, and in which he spent the residue of his days. In discharging the duties of his office, he endured great persecution and hatred. That scheme of sentiments he embraced, preached, and, in a most masterly manner, defended, was opposite to the general opinion of mankind, whether Jews or Gentiles, and tended to sap their religion at the root. This gave them great disgust, and on
this account, they considered and treated him as their enemy. So that, as he himself declares, the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying, That bonds and afflictions abide me. However, in his view, the cause he espoused was so glorious and important, tending so much to advance the honour of God, and the eternal welfare of mankind, that none of those things moved him, neither counted he his life dear unto himself: so that he might finish his course with joy, and the ministry which he had received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the Gospel of the grace of God.
When he wrote this epistle, he was a prisoner at Rome for the cause of Christianity; and soon expected to suffer as a martyr for the truth. Hence, as in the passage before us, he says, Now I am ready to be offered, and the time of my de parture is at hand. In this passage, two important ideas are disclosed. One in that clause of the verse, For I am noro ready to be offered; the other in this, and the time of my departure is at hand.
Some attention to each of these two ideas is designed in the following discourse.
I. I shall point out in some particulars, when the time of persons' death or departure is at hand.
II. Show what is implied in readiness for death.
Lastly. Conclude the subject with remarks and addresses suited to the present mournful occasion.
I. I shall point out, in some particulars, when the time of persons' death or departure is at hand.
1. In a comparative view, this is ever true of them while here in the world.
No sooner do we enter upon the theatre of life, than death pursues us, and whatever may be our expectations, it is but a little time before it will overtake us, and conclude the sad story of our pilgrimage on earth. To a person in youthful days, seventy or eighty years appear a long period, and could he be assured of living to that age, it would go far towards equalling his wishes. But how great is the mistake! Such it is known to be by those who have had the trial. The blooming youth may dote on old age, and think the man with an hoary head has lived till length of days has made him
weary of the world ; but measure the existence of such an one with any thing durable, and it is as nothing. In the first age of the world, the life of man was near a thousand years ; afterwards it was reduced to four or five hundred. In succeeding time, it was shortened to the space of between one and two hundred years. And now, at last, we can reckon only threescore years and ten. Now, compare a life of the last period with the first, and it is short indeed.
But if we still further compare it with our future, endless existence, it is but a point; it is as nothing.
Agreeably to this, it is written, Man that is born of a woman is of few days, und full of trouble. For what is your hife? it is even a vapour that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. The days of men on the earth, are said to be as an hand-breadth, and their age as nothing before God.
2. This is more emphatically the case with persons how few soever their years, months, or days have been, if yet the greater part of them are past, and there remains but a step between them and eternity.
Observation, as well as the book of the Scriptures, teaches, that there is no age secure from death. Mankind die in infancy, and youth, and in every other period of life. No external circumstances whatever, ensure future continuance on earth. A firm constitution is no effectual bar against the arrows of death. The greatest caution in diet, labour, recreation, and sleep, affords no certainty of so much as to-morrow. Hence it is written, Boast not thyself of to-morrow ; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth. A bow, shot at a venture, may wing its way with unerring aim, and hit the mark-an unexpected arrow from the Almighty's quiver, may do execution. Some fatal disease may suddenly seize them, and bring them down to the grave; or some accident may happen to put a period to their life. Men may die by the hand of violence, or more immediately by the hand of God.
Innumerable are the avenues of death; and in ways little thought of by mankind, may they be called to depart out of the world.
Persons of every age, sex, and condition, in an infinite