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In this way
On retiring to rest, he has been heard to declare, that if his Master had no more work for him to do, he should be glad to be dismissed that night. “ I bless God," he would say, at other times, “ I can lie down with comfort at night, not being solicitous whether I awake in this world, or another.” When he was almost worn out by his infirmities, he observed in conversation with a friend, that he remembered an aged minister used to say, that the most Jearned and knowing christians, when they came to die, have only the same plain promises of the gospel for their support, as the common and unlearned: " and so,” said he, “ I find it. It is the plain promises of the gospel that are my support, and I bless God they are plain promises, that do not require much Jabour and pains to understand them; for I can do nothing now but look into my bible for some promise to support me, and live upon that.” the promises became a present inheritance of support and consolation both as the security and prelibations of his future exaltation before the throne of God; and “ As the setting sun appears of greater magnitude, and his beams of richer gold than when in his meridian, so this dying believer was richer in experience, stronger in grace, and brighter in bis evidences for heaven than was usual in any period of bis life.” With some view, no doubt to this hapny state of mind, Dr. Grovesnor, being at the funeral of Dr. Watts, a friend said to him, “ Well Dr. Grovesnor, you have seen the end of Dr. Watts; and you will soon follow him: what think you of death ?” “Think of it.”—he replied, “ why when death comes I shall smile upon him, if God will smile upon me.”
His freedom from corporeal pain, and his uninterrupted assurance that all was well, excited the strongest sentiments and expressions of gratitude in his last moments, when without a struggle or a groan, November 25, 1748, in the 75th year of his age, he departed this life, eminently beloved of God, and lamented by all wise and good men. Such are the joys and honours derived from the doctrines of Christianity. Such are the joys and honours by which the true believer shall be faithfully attended through the valley of the shadow of death, and which will be consummated in the fruition of an eternal weight of glory. Let those who doubt and despise our faith consider of what importance religion is to the sick and dying, and till they possess the power of healing, and of restoration from the borders of the grave, let them not take away the only support of our hopes, the only solace of our allictions: Let them not interpose between us and the bright prospects of life and immortality.
The remains of this great man were deposited in Bunhill-fields burialground, London ; and to give a final testimony to his affection and liberality, his pa'l was supported by six ministers, two of the presbyterian, two of the congregational, and two of the antipoedo-baptist denomination, Dr. Samuel Chandler delivered an oration at the grave, and Dr. Jennings preached his fuDeral sermon to the church of which Dr. Watts had been pastor, from Hebrews xi. 4. “ By it be being dead yet speaketh.” Several other eminent men gave similar testimonies of respect to his memory. But while his various excellencies procured him these honours, he in his life time, was concerned to prevent whatever might be considered as inconsistent with the humility of his character. He gare directions to have only a stone crected over the place of huis interment, with this bumble inscription :
“Isaac Watts, D. D. Pastor of a Church of Christ, in London, successor “to the Rev. Mr. Joseph Caryl, Dr. John Owen, Mr. David Clarkson, and “ Dr. Isaac Chauncy; after fifty years of feeble labours in the gospel, inter* rupted by four years of tiresome sickness, was at last dismissed to his rest.
" In uno Jesu omnia. “ 2 Cor. v. 8.-Absent from the body, and present with the Lord.
4 Col. iii. 4.When Christ who is my life shall appear, then shall I also " appear with him in glory."
A handsome tomb, bearing this inscription, with the time of his death, was accordingly erected at the joint expence of Sir John Hartopp, once his pupil, and Lady Abney, in whose house he so long and so happily resided,
THE FIRST VOLUME OF SERMONS.
To the Church of Christ assembling in Berry-street, London.
Christian Friends, dearly beloved in our Lord; It is in the service of your souls that I have spent the best period of my life ministering the gospel among you. Two and twenty years are now expired since you first called me to this delightful work; from that time my cares and labours, my studies and prayers, have been employed in your behalf. I trust they have been accepted with God, and, through his almighty blessing, have obtained some success. As to their acceptance with you, I have too many and plaiu evidences to admit a doubt of it; which I have often thankfully acknowledged to God and you. Your forward kindness hath always forbid my request, nor do I remember that you ever gave me leave to ask any thing for myself at your hands, by your constant anticipation of all that I could reasonably desire.
While I was thus walking among you in the fellowship of the gospel with mutual delight, God was pleased to weaken my strength in the way, and thereby has given you a fairer opportunity to shew the vigour of your affection under my long weakness and confinement. Your diligence and zeal in maintaining public worship in the church, under the pastoral care of my
dear brother and colleague*, in your special days and hours of prayer for my recovery, your constant and fervent addresses to the throne of grace on my account in your weekly solemn assemblies, and your chearsul supply of my necessities under so tedious an affliction, have made me your debtor in a high degree, and have strengthened the bands of my duty, by adding to them the bands of your love.
As soon as I was capable of the smallest attempt of service, you received me with all joy in the Lord : And though we were rivals in this pleasure, yet you will allow that my joy was, at least equal to yours; for I think I can pronounce it with great sincerity, that “ there is no place, nor company, nor en -ployment, on this side heaven, that can give me such a relish of delight, as when I stand ministering holy things in the midst of you."
As fast as my health increases, you may assure yourselves it is devoted to your edification. It often grieves me to think how poor, feeble, and short, are my present labours among you; and yet what days of faintness I generally feel after every such attempt: So that I am continually prevented in my design of successive visits to you, by the want of active spirits while I tarry in
* Mr. Samuel Price.
the city; and if I attempt to stay but a week or ten days there, I find a sensible return of weakness ; so that I am constrained to retire to the country-air, in order to recruit and maintain this little capacity of service.
I bless God heartily, and you are my witnesses, that in my better seasons of health heretofore, and in the intervals of my studies, I was not a stranger of your private families, nor thoughtless of your soul's improvement.
What shall I do now to make up these defects? What can I do more pleasing and profitable to you, than to seize the advantages of nry retirement, to review some of those discourses which have assisted your faith and joy in my former ministry, and to put them into your hands? Thus something of me shall abide with you in your several houses, while I am so incapable of much public labour, and of personal visits.
This, my friends, is the true design of sending this volume to the press : And though many of my brethren may compose far better sermons than I, whose persons I love and honour, and their labours I read with reverence and improvement, yet I am persuaded, that share which I have in your affections, will render these discourses at least as agreeable to your taste, as those of superior excellency from other hands. If any other christians shall think fit to peruse them, and find any spiritual benefit, they must make their acknowledgments to God and you.
I cannot invite the loose and fashionable part of mankind, the vain censors of the age, and the deriders of the ministry, to become my readers: Too many of them grow weary of christianity, and look back upon heathenism with a wishful eye, as the Jews did of old upon the leeks and onions of Egypt, when they grew angry with Moses, and began to loathe the bread of heaven. These persons will find but little here that suits their taste; for I have not entertained you with lectures of philosophy, instead of the gospel of Christ; nor have I affected that easy indolence of style which is the dry delight of some modish writers, the cold and insipid pleasure of men who pretend to politeness. You know it has always been the business of my ministry to convince and persuade your souls into practical godliness, by the clearest and strongest reasons derived from the gospel, and by all the most moving methods of speech, of which I was capable ; but still in a humble subserviency to the promised iniluences of the Holy Spirit, I ever thought it my duty to press the conviction with force on the conscience, when light was first let into the mind. A statue hung round with moral sentences, or marble pillar with divine truths inscribed upon it, may preach coldly to the understanding, while devotion freezes at the heart : But the prophets and apostles were burning and shining lights; they were all taught by inspiration to make the words of truth glitter like sun-beams, and to operate like a hammer, and a fire, and a two-edged Sword*. The movements of sacred passion may be the ridicule of an age which pretends to nothing but calm reasoning. Life and zeal in the ministry of the word, may be despised by men of luke-warm and dying religion : Fervency of spirit is the service of the Lordt, may become the scoff and jest of the critic and the profane : But this very life and zeal, this sacred fervency, shall still remain one bright character of a christian preacher, till the names of Pan] and Apollos perish from the church ; and that is till this bible and these heavens are no more.
* 2 Cor. iv. 4, 6. Jobo v. 35.
Jer, xxiii. 29.
Heb. iv, 12.
† Acts xviii. 25. Rom. xii. 11,
In some of these discourses indeed I have not had the opportunity of so warm and affectionate an address to the hearers. A true and just explication of scripture and a convincing proof of the doctrine proposed, have been the chief things necessary; yet I have endeavoured, even there, to give a practial and pathetic turn, as far as the design of the text would bear it: But in the other sermons I blame myself more for the want of zeal and devout passion, than for the excess of it.
I will readily confess, there are bere and there some periods where the language appears a little too elevated, though not too warm ; I know it is not the proper style of the pulpit: but there is some difference between speaking and writing. In one the ear must take in the sense at once; in the other, the eye may review what the first glance did not fully receive. Besides, my friendly readers will now and then indulge a metaphor, to one who from his youngest years, has dealt a little in sacred poesy.
You are my witnesses, that in the common course of my ministry, I often press the duties of sobriety and temperance, justice and charity, as well as the inward and spiritual parts of godliness. But since treatises on the latter subjects are seldom published now-a-days, I have permitted the matters of secret Converse between God and the holy soul, to take up a larger share in these dissourses; and it has been my aim to rescue these arguments from the charge of enthusiasm, and to put them in such a light, as might shew their perfect consistence with common sense and reason. Hereby I have done my part to defend them against the daily cavils of those low pretenders to christianity, who banish most of these things from their religion, and yet arrogate and confine all reason to themselves.
It is necessary that a christian preacher should teach the laws of sobriety, the rules of charity and justice, our duty to our neighbour, and our practice of public religion ; but it is my opinion that discourses of experimental piety, and the work of the closet, should also sometimes entertain the church and the world. Our fathers talked much of pious experience, and have left their wrilings of the same strain behind them: They were surrounded with converts, and helped to fill heaven apace; for God was with them. But I mourn to think that some are grown so degenerate in our days, as to join their names and their works together in a common jest, and to ridicule the sacred matter of their sermons, because the manner had now and then something in it too mystical and obscure, and there is something in their style unfashionable and unpolished.
It must be acknowledged indeed, to the honour of the present age, that we have some pretences above our predecessors to freedom and justness of thought, to strength of reasoning, to clear ideas, to the generous principles of christian charity; and I wish we had the practice of it too. But as to the savour of piety and inward religion, as to spiritual-mindedness, and zeal for God, and the good of souls; as to the spirit and power of evangelical ministrations, we may all complain, the glory is much departed from our Israel. Happy the men who are so far assisted and favoured of God, as to unite all these excel ies, and to join the honours of past and present age together! How far it has been attempted amongst you, I have a witness in your