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while these occupy their thoughts, the mere idea of separation will dwindle into insignificance. Their tears will cease to roll, but their hearts will not cease to feel. To think of following them into the grave will produce tenderness and tears; but to think of following them into eternity will produce self-reflection, self-examination,
and probably self-condemnation. These exercises have a tendency to do mourners spiritual good, and to prepare them for a happy meeting with their departed friends, or for a happy and eternal separation from them. It is affecting to look into the grave, but it is far more solemn and useful to look into eternity, where all departed spirits are gone, and will for ever remain. The contemplation upon the scenes and objects of eternity is of all things the best suited to afford consolation to mourners, if they ought to receive consolation; and if that does not afford them consolation, nothing else in the universe can, in their present situation. The recent mourners, and there are a number of such, are entreated to attend to the source of consolation which this solemn subject suggests. And if they are not prepared, they are entreated to prepare, to contemplate eternity with joy and hope.
This will dry up their tears, and give them that peace and consolation which neither the death of others nor their own death can destroy.
Finally, it is the immediate and indispensable duty of every person of every character, age and condition, to prepare to go to those who have gone from them and will never return. All must go to meet their departed friends, and they must go where they are. Though their bodies are in their graves, yet their spirits are not there, but in eternity, and there they must go to find them, and when they have found them they must abide with them. When the living visit their deceased friends, they must pay them a long, an endless visit, which will be unspeakably delightful or dreadful. But every one must go to the dead, whether willing or unwilling to go. Living parents must go to their deceased children; living children must go to their deceased parents ; living brothers and sisters must go to their deceased brothers and sisters; and living friends must go to their deceased friends. All must go; none can be excused ; and none know how soon they must leave the living and go to the dead. The grave is without any order. The time of their departure out of this into the eternal world cannot be long to any. It is certainly near at hand to the aged. There is but a step between them and death. And though the young may live many years and rejoice in them all, yet the day of darkness and death will soon arrive, when they too must go the
way that all the world have hitherto gone. But Providence is every day telling us that children and youth, and those in the midst of their days, may meet a premature death. No one knows what a day may bring forth to himself.
“ Go to now, ye that say, to-day or to-morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain : whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? it is even a vapor that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will we shall live, and do this or that.” The serious question now is, are you who mourn, and you who rejoice, prepared to go to the dead? Are you prepared to go to those who have left you, whether they were prepared to leave you or not? Are you prepared to see them, whether they are holy or unholy, happy or unhappy? If you are cordially reconciled to God, and have secured his favor and protection, you are prepared to go into eternity, and to see all that is to be seen, and to know all that is to be known there; but if you are not prepared to meet God, you are not prepared to meet departed spirits, whether they are holy and happy, or unholy and miserable. The question is not whether you are willing to leave this troublesome world; but whether you are willing to meet both the holy and unholy, the happy and the miserable, in another world. This question demands serious self-reflection, and self-examination. The recent instances of mortality, as well as another serious circumstance, imperiously call upon us all to look into our own hearts, and inquire whether we are prepared to go to the dead, who have left us and gone into eternity, from whence they will never return. It would be strange if none of you should this day recollect that I have finished the forty-eighth, and entered upon the forty-ninth year of my ministry among you.* I have buried, perhaps, seven or eight hundred hearers, who are gone into eternity, where I must shortly meet them. It would be strange indeed, if I should not habitually bear in mind the consequences of my preaching, to them and to myself, and in some measure realize that I watch for souls as one that must give account. And under this impression, can you think it strange that I have said so much concerning the eternal happiness to be enjoyed and the eternal misery to be suffered beyond the grave? I expect to meet those of my hearers who are gone before me, and those who shall follow after me into eternity. I wish to make divine truths and divine objects appear to you in this world, as I expect they will appear to you and to me in another world. It becomes me to call myself to an account how I have preached the gospel ; and it becomes you to call yourselves to an account how you have heard it.
* April, 1821.
It becomes me to view both you and myself in the light of eternity, and to preach as a dying creature to dying creatures. I shall soon cease to speak, and you will soon cease to hear me; but what I have said and you have heard, will never be erased from our minds. It will be a savor of life unto life, or a savor of death unto death. I am preaching and you are hearing for eternity; and may God, in his infinite mercy, grant that the preacher and hearer may be each other's crown of rejoicing in the day of the Lord Jesus! Amen.
SERMON X X X V.
DEATH IN THE MIDST OF LIFE.
DEATH OF MAJOR ERASTUS EMMONS, MARCH 13, 1820: AGED 33.
I BAID, O my God, take me not away in the midst of my days.
It is uncertain when David presented this petition to his Creator and Preserver; but it is natural to suppose that it was at a time when he viewed himself apparently exposed to the stroke of death.
It seems by what he said just before he made this request, that he was in a low and languishing state of health, and apprehended that he was gradually drawing near to the grave. He felt that his strength was weakened, and therefore expected that his life would be shortened; and, under this impression, he prayed that God would not take him away in the midst of his days. Though he was a good man, and habitually prepared to leave the world, yet he seems to have been reluctant to dying in the meridian of life. And who is there now in the midst of his days, that feels no reluctance to going the way of all the earth ? Neither the young, nor the old, whether in a state of nature or of grace, are generally so unwilling to go off the stage of life, as those who are in the midst of their days. If those in the decline of life were to look back and compare their past and present feelings upon this subject, they would undoubtedly find that they never had so strong an attachment to life as when they were in their own view in the midst of their days. Since that period, many things have occurred to wean them from the world. But though mankind are so reluctant to being taken away in the midst of their days, yet this reluctance is no security against the stroke of death, even in that stage of life. David knew that God had a right to cut short his life, and take him away from all his fond hopes, and expectations, and prospects, in the midst of his days. This right God sometimes exercises; for what Job says is often verified. “ One dieth in his full strength, being wholly at ease and quiet. His breasts are full of milk, and his bones are moistened with marrow." It is, therefore, a plain truth, and worthy of our serious consideration,
That God does take away some in the midst of their days, though they are then the most unwilling to die. I shall show,
I. That those who are in the midst of their days are generally the most unwilling to die : and,
II. That nevertheless, God does take away some in the midst of their days, as well as in any other period of life.
I. I am to show, that those who are in the midst of their days are generally the most unwilling to die.
It is not necessary to say, very exactly, who are in the midst of their days. Estimating the period of human life at threescore years and ten, we may consider all those in the meridian of life, whose age is between thirty and fifty years. In these twenty years, mankind are generally the most capable of acting their various parts on the stage of life. And it is in this period that they are generally the most attached to living and the most averse to dying. Generally, I say, because there may be exceptions to this opinion. There are so many changes in the outward and inward state of mankind, that some in the earlier, and some' in the later period of life, may be the most unwilling to die. These things being premised, I proceed to observe,
1. That those in the midst of their days have the strongest expectations of living. They have been in deaths oft. They have been sensible of the danger of losing their lives, ever since they can remember; but yet have always escaped the arrow of death. They have often been visibly exposed to accidents; but have always escaped those that are fatal. They have often been sick, and sometimes dangerously so; but have always happily recovered. All these recoveries from sickness, and escapes from danger, have had a natural tendency to create hopes and expectations of living, and still escaping future dangers and diseases. Whether their bodily. constitution be slender or robust, they place more dependence upon it in the meridian, than in any other period of life. They have known by experience that they have outlived many who were younger and stronger, and, perhaps, in many respects more likely to live than they. And when they look around them, they find that much the largest class of the living are, like themselves, in the meridian of life. All these circumstances are familiar to them; and they can easily and almost imperceptibly put them together, in order to strengthen and confirm their ardent and