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of these glorious sufferers for Christ. And those that have been doubtful and trembling believers, whose faith was wavering, and who were ready to let go their profession, have ventured through blood and torments, and death, with a divine resolution, when they have beheld the martyrs meet the same death and torments with a sacred bravery of soul.
A multitude of fearful christians may be animated and encouraged to travel through the dark valley, and to cross the cold flood of death, by the example of a single saint, who has passed that important hour with success and honour. So you have seen a flock of sheep stand doubtful and delaying on the bank of some little brook; but when the first and second have made their way through it, the rest venture over in multitudes, and leap the ditch with the greatest ease, the difficulty and the danger vanish at once, when they have seen a forerunner leading the way.
Thus it hath been made evident in several instances, that the death of fellow-christians is ours. It shall turn to our great advantage, through the influences of the gospel, and the Spirit of grace, where christians die like themselves, in the exercise of a joyful hope. It confirms our faith in the gospel of Christ, it encourages our imitation of their holy life, it makes earth and this life less pleasant to us, and heaven more desirable, and it instructs us how to die,
But if a saint go out of this world under much darkness and terror, this is commonly to be supposed a divine chastisement for the criminal indulgence of some temptations, or some unwatchful steps he has taken in the course of his life; for God will make his own people know, many times by painful experience, that it is an evil and bitter thing to backslide and depart from him. A wise and pious spectator upon this occasion, will take warning by the terrors of the Lord, and by the punishment of his fellow-christian, to avoid that guilt, and those criminal indulgences, which have provoked God to leave his brother to darkness, even in the hour of death: And this may be a means to awaken him to a most watchful course of holiness, lest he fall under the same strokes of anger from his heavenly Father, and suffer his displeasure in that awful moment, when he would most earnestly wish for the sweetest sense of his love. Thus I have finished the third general head, and shewed that the death of the saints may be richly improved to the advantage of the living.
The Recollection." Come, my soul, who art daily conversing with the affairs and concerns of life, come now, and meditate on the name of death: It is a name that carries much terror in it
to nature; come, and see whether thou canst not derive a blessing from it, by the instructions of the gospel, and the aids of grace. "Thou hast heard the lessons that the death of mankind in general should teach thee: Enquire now what thou hast learned of them: Hast thou seen the vanity of man as a mortal dying creature? It is an easy matter to say, "Alas, we must all die :" But hast thou felt the penetrating force of this truth? And does it influence thy whole conduct? Art thou not still, at every turn, putting thy confidence in one creature or another, whose breath is in his Lostrils, and whose death disappoints thy hope? Or hast thou removed thy dependance from all creatures to God, and fixed thy hope in him that lives for ever? O blessed effect of the meditation on death?
"Again, Hast thou seen the heinous evil of sin in the spreading desolation that death has made over this lower world? Remember that it received its commission from the justice of God, almost six thousand years ago, and from his law which sin had broken: The dreadful execution proceeds to this day, and it will proceed till there be no sinner upon earth. Sin is the spring of all this havoc of the lives of men. It is sin that has deserved all these tremendous executions of wrath: And yet, O my soul, how often hast thou indulged this mischief, to play about thy bosom, like a harmless thing! Come, view the dismal effects of it, in the death of millions, and learn to hate and renounce it for ever. It is no small evil that could awaken the indignation of God at this rate, and diffuse it so widely, over so large and so glorious a part of his creation, as the whole nature and race of man.
"Again, I would enquire, has the death of mankind taught me effectually, that I must shortly die? And have I been excited, to make a suitable provision for this awful and important hour, since I must not, I cannot escape it? "Not only the death of mankind in general, but the death of wicked men may instruct me in some useful lessons too. Here I learn how God rescues his children from the rage of oppressors, when he smites them down to death, and lays all their fury silent in the dust. Thus death itself becomes a deliverer to the saints, by destroying their cruel persecutors. "I learn also, that when early or sudden death has seized a bold sinner, it is a loud warning-word to all his companions. When I see such terrible examples in the course of providence, let my soul stand in awe and fear.
"And if God has distinguished me by his mercy, if he has pardoned my guilt, and sanctified my corrupt nature, if he has inade me one of his own children, and prepared me for dying, when he summons others away unpardoned, unsanctified, unprepared, let all my powers be excited to bless the name of the Lord
for his saving love. I was also a child of sin and wrath, but divine grace has made the difference. It is grace that has snatched me from the very brink of the pit of hell, and is training me up for heaven. "And while I adore thy distinguishing mercy, O my God, to me, I would pity and pray for poor heedless and regardless sinners, that are following one another in a dismal succession, down to the gates of death. O may their eyes and souls be awakened in their day of life and hope, lest death seize them, and send them farther down to everlasting darkness and despair! "But if such lessons, as these, be derived from the death of sinners, how much more benefit may be drawn from the dying hours of a sincere christian, especially if his heart be strong, and his faith lively!
"Here, I see the gospel of Christ in some of its power and glory, when I see a christian under all the weaknesses and languishings of nature, meeting death without terror, and overcoming his last enemy by the blood of the Lamb. I see the saint all serene and peaceful, even in the agonies of dying nature, and amidst the sorrows of lamenting friends. He has heaven in view, and he bids farewell to earth with holy joy: Shall I not imitate the faith and holiness of his life, which laid a foundation for so peaceful and glorious a death? Do I not feel my soul a little more weaned from the world, since such a pious friend has left it? Has not death lost some of its frightful appearances, since I have actually seen it conquered? Do I not feel my heart panting and breathing toward the society above, since I have another friend gone thither? Does it not seem a more easy thing to me to lay down this tabernacle, to part with flesh and blood, and to venture into those unseen regions, since I have beheld my fellow-christian go before me? He has made the great and solemn experiment, and surely I should have courage to follow : He has given evident proof, that there is a sacred power in the gospel, the promises and the grace of Christ, to convey the soul safe through the dark shadow of death, without surprise and consternation: And has not my soul the same rich encouragements, the same promises of grace, and the same gospel of hope?
"O my Redeemer, and my Lord, hear a humble suppliant, influence my soul by thy rich grace, to keep my faith awake, my conscience undefiled, and my evidences for heaven ever bright and clear; And when my appointed hour comes, that solemn and final hour," let me die the death of the righteous, and my departure be like his ;" Num. xxiii. 10. "Is death an enemy to nature, and does it carry terror in the name? Yet since thou hast subdued this enemy, and taken it captive, to serve the purposes of thy love, since thou hast numbered it, and written it
down among the possessions of thy people: since thou hast taught so many of thy followers to triumph over it; let me also, blessed Jesus, let me be enabled to meet it with holy fortitude, and a lively hope. O let me follow the footsteps of the flock, into the world of spirits, with a sacred pleasure, though it be through a dark passage. And as those, who went before me, have taught me to dare to die, so let my dying moments encourage those who come after me, to venture into death, at thy call, without terror and without reluctance." Amen.
HYMN FOR SERMON XLI.
Death of Mankind, Saints and Sinners, Improved.
HAS death such vast destruction made?
Great God! How awful and how just!
When impious wretches yield their breath,
And go unpardon'd down to death,
Awake my soul, adore the grace,
But when a saint with chearful air
We learn to face the tyrant too.
We could renounce our all things here,
The Death of Kindred improved.
1 COR. iii. 22.- -Whether life or death,
all are yours,
HAPPY and immortal had Adam been, and all his children,
if he had not ventured to break the command of his Creator: Life had been theirs in the most glorious sense of it; and death had not been known. But when sin entered into the world, death followed close behind it, according to that just and solemn threatening, In the day thou eatest, thou shalt surely die; Gen. ii. 17. And what a dismal havoc has this enemy made amongst the inhabitants of our world! It has strewed the earth with carcases, and turned millions of human bodies into dust and corruption. The very name of death spreads a terror through all nature: But as dreadful and formidable as it is in itself, the grace of Christ makes a blessing of it, and sanctifies it to the advantage of his own people.
In the former discourse on this subject, we have learned some divine lessons from death, in its widest extent of dominion. The death of all mankind yields some special advantage to a saint: He is taught to reap some benefit from the death of impenitent sinners, though it carry along with it, such a fearful train of attendants, and draw after it a long eternity of torments. He knows how to derive some advantage from the death of his fellow-christians; and whether they die in the joy of faith, and serenity of spirit, or whether their sun sets in a cloud, and fears and doubts attend them, in that important hour, still he is taught to profit by it. In these three instances, it appears that death is ours: Death is in this respect made the treasure and property of a christian, as he is instructed to improve it, to his own sacred interest, and to the welfare of his soul. We proceed
now to the
Fourth general head, and shall endeavour to shew how the death of our relations and kindred in the flesh shall turn to our benefit.
I. It shews us the emptiness and insufficiency of our dearest created comforts, of all blessings that are not immortal.
We have lost, perhaps, an inferior relation, a son, a daughter, a nephew, a pleasing entertainment and comfort of life: But