Billeder på siden

and applause in the great day. The thief that was converted upon the cross, spoke a word for Christ in his last moments, and it has been blessed to rescue many from the jaws of despair: That dying creature had done nothing for God in his life; a vicious life, and a wicked creature! But the profession of sincere faith and repentance which he made at his death, hath been richly honoured in the kingdom of grace; and I am persuaded it has helped many a fearful christian on toward the kingdom of glory.

IV. "If so many valuable works are done, and so many graces are exercised on earth, which have no place in heaven, then the lives of the saints are worth praying for. Precious in the eye of God is the life of his saints, and they should be precious in the eye of man too. When an active, useful christian, when a pious magistrate, when a zealous and faithful minister goes down to the dust, alas! how much good ceases from the earth for ever? The world knows not what it loses by such a death.

Let not children be impatient at the length of life which their holy parents enjoy: You know not, children, what benefit ye may reap from their example, their counsel, their earnest prayers, and secret wrestlings with God for your souls: Let us have a care that we do nothing, that may break the spirits of our pious friends, or that may hasten the departure of holy persons from this lower world, whose virtues and graces are of eminent use among us. Let us rather pray earnestly, that God would lengthen out the days of those, who speak and act with a useful zeal for the honour of Christ, and for the welfare of the souls of men. When death once has put a period to their days, all this sort of service is finished for ever; and we ourselves may sustain unknown loss by their speedy departure out of this world.

The Recollection." Is not this a strange doctrine which I have heard to-day, that a christian on earth has many privileges which can never belong to the saints in heaven? Is it not strange tidings to hear, that there are many graces to be exercised in this life, which neither saints nor angels can practise in the holy and heavenly world? And yet the evidence is so strong, and the truth is so plain and certain, that I see it, and I must believe it. Remember then, O my soul, thou hast one more motive to diligence in all the duties of life than ever thou hadst before; And thou hast also one more support under all thy sorrows, beyond what thy former days were ever acquainted with. A de lightful support it is under sufferings, and a noble motive to duty. Awake, awake all my active powers, let every grace be in exercise, and every talent be employed to bring this revenue of honour to my God and my Saviour in this life, which the saints

above cannot give him, and which, at the moment of death, must for ever cease.

Blessed Spirit, lead me to the practice of the most useful duties, that my service may be of a large extent both to God and man. Now let me study and contrive, wherein I may best promote the interest of Christ and his gospel here on earth. Let me bear the burdens of life with a holy satisfaction: Let me endure the fatigues of labour with a sacred pleasure: Let me resist the temptations, let me sustain the sorrows of life like a good soldier of Christ in the present field of battle. Heaven will have other business for me, and proper work of its own: That is the place of joy and triumph,

"Forgive, O my God, all my slothfulness in duty, and my impatience of suffering. Let this new and glorious motive possess my spirit powerfully, and influence all my future conduct, that when the messenger of death shall tell me, I must be employed in this sort of work no more, I may look back from the borders of eternity, and rejoice that I have been assisted by divine grace, to do so much for God on earth; and when I am called away from the present stage of action, I may be received by my great Master at the gates of heaven, with a Well done good and faithful servant, come, enter into the joy of thy Lord. Amen.


The Privilege of the Living above the Dead.

[blocks in formation]
[ocr errors]


Death improved to our Advantage.

1 COR. iii. 22.-Whether life or death,-all are yours.

THE chief thing which the apostle has in his eye in these verses, is to represent the glory and grandeur, the treasures and possessions that every believer is a partaker of, by virtue of his interest in Christ and to shew, that whatsoever persons or affairs a christian has to do with in the natural, the civil, and the religious life, they shall all turn to his benefit some way or other. All the circumstances that attend him while he continues here in this world, and even his departure out of it too, shall work for his good. Death is numbered among his possessions as well as life. Death may be terrible to flesh and blood, for it is a curse in its original nature and design, and sinners will find and feel the curse of it; but it is transformed into a blessing to the saints by the abounding grace of the gospel.

I confess, it is a christian's own death, that the holy writer seems chiefly and most particularly to design and intend here: And this I shall most largely insist upon. But since death in all its circumstances and attendants, in all the extent of its dominion, and with all its power, is under the sovereign management of God our heavenly Father; it is constrained to subserve his kind and gracious purposes to his own people, in all its forms and appearances. And I think upon this account, that I shall not transgress the apostle's great and general design, if I take the dreadful name of DEATH, in its widest and most formidable extent of power, and with relation to all its victories, and shew how, even in this largest sense, it is appointed to subserve the glory of God, and the kingdom of Christ, and by the grace of the new covenant, it is rendered useful and beneficial to every true christian; on this account therefore it may be numbered amongst his possessions. Death is yours.

With this view I shall endeavour to run through these five general heads following, and improve each of them, in a few particulars, to the benefit of christians, agreeably to the design of my text.-Death is made useful to a saint, when we cousider it,

I. As reigning over all mankind in general.-II. As seizing on impenitent and unpardoned sinners.-III. As taking captive the bodies of the saints.-IV. As depriving us of our dear relations and kindred. And,-V. As bringing our own bodies down to the dust.

[ocr errors]

I confess, I was very unwilling to leave the death of Christ out of this catalogue; for his death is not only the most eminent blessing to every christian, but it is also the price that purchased all other blessings in time, and in eternity. It is the death of Christ that may be called the christian's richest treasure, for it procures for him all the treasures of grace and glory. It is the fruit of his death, that all things are ours, whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or things present, or things to come. It is his death that gives truth and virtue to the words of my text, and to all the rich and spreading comments upon it, that faith can make here on earth, and that our souls shall taste and enjoy hereafter in heaven.

Yet when I consider, that the death of Christ is more directly expressed in many other scriptures, and does not seem at all to have been the design of St. Paul in this text: and when I survey what a vast and copious subject I must enter into, if I recount the riches of blessing that are derived from this spring, I chuse to refer that subject to another season. I proceed therefore according to the order I have proposed, to treat of the various advantages to be derived from this proposition, Death is


First, The death of mankind in general shall be made profitable to believers. The death of all the sons and daughters of Adam, shall promote the improvement of the children of God, in knowledge, grace, and holiness; for it instructs them in three most useful lessons.

1. It gives them a most powerful and sensible lecture on the vanity of man. A burying place filled with tombs, is a lively book of human frailty: It repeats the melancholy lesson in every leaf. Each little grave-stone becomes a preacher of vanity to the living, even in the profound silence of the dead. This is the doctrine of every rising hillock, this is the universal theme: And every stately monument there strikes the beholder with the same mortifying truth: though perhaps it swells with many pompous titles and images of honour. And this lesson of vanity stands written there still in fair and indelible characters, though the name of the dead, and all their praises be quite worn out. Dust and ashes, even without an inscription, and without a monument, are silent but powerful teachers.

Alas, what is man in his best estate! A poor and mortal dying creature! When we read the histories of past ages and

foreign nations, and find that those whole nations and ages are all dead and mingled with the dust, and even those, who once made a great bustle and figure in this world, are now but an empty name, we cry out, "What vain creatures we are!" When we behold our neighbours and our acquaintance on the right-hand, and on the left, dropping away all around us; when we see one following another daily down to the grave of silence, it is a very natural and just reflection: "Alas, how frail is man!" When we behold the young, the healthy, the fair, and the strong, the rich, and the powerful, together with the poor, the feeble, and the slave, all yielding to the common law of death, and turning into earth and rottenness, we have just occasion to cry out, “What a vain empty thing is human nature, even the best of it: A piece of pretty mouldering clay: These bodies of ours are fine and curious engines but made of the dust, and to dust they return again."

This is the common state, situation, and view of things in all seasons, and in every generation. But when we fix our thoughts on soine special seasons or causes of mortality, when we think of a famine or a pestilence that sweeps away thousands in a few days, that empties the whole streets in a night or two, and lays towns or cities desolate; when we read of wars and battles that overspread the mountain with slaughter, and cover vast plains with human carcases; when we hear of storms at sea that drown many hundreds at once, and perhaps some thousands sink down to death in their floating habitations, then we are more feelingly penetrated with a sense of our vanity, then we sigh and groan aloud and break out into this mournful language? O Lord! hast thou made all mankind in vain? Ps. lxxxix. 49. How awful is thy government! How terrible are thy judgments, thou Almighty Sovereign of life and death! The ancient saints have made such remarks often, and mixed these scenes of mortality with their pious thoughts, and turned them into devotion: They have drawn many serious and pathetic inferences from such meditations on death, and vented their musings of thought in holy language.

(1.) Shall man compare himself with God? Mortal man that dwelleth in houses of clay, whose foundation is in the dust, and who is crushed before the moth! Shall he set himself to contend with the eternal God his Maker;" Job. iv. 17-19. Again:

(2.) "What little reason have we to be proud and boastful! Poor dying mushrooms, who start up for a few hours, but cannot assure ourselves of to-morrow! To-day we swell and look big among men, to-morrow we are a feast for worms. Our days are as a hand's breadth; verily every man at his best estate is altogether vanity" Ps. xxxix. 5. Again:

(3.) How vain and fruitless a thing is it to put our trust

« ForrigeFortsæt »