« VorigeDoorgaan »
om and grace,
lation for the death of others--according to our apostle, who, in the sweetest accents of evangelical sympathy and love, in the last verse of our text--calls us to “ comfort one another with the hopes, after Death, “ and a Resurrection, of being forever with the “ Lord!”
I proceed now to the first head of discourse as pointed out in the text, namely—“ Considerations on “ death, and how, through divine assistance, to sub“ due and overcome his mighty terrors”—and Oh! Thou almighty fountain of all wisdom and and Heavenly fortitude, aid me with thy divine spirit, that the great and awsul subjects, which I am to handle, may not suffer through my feeble endeavours; but give me, for the sake of Jesus and his Gospel, to follow, with clear and unembarassed view, the steps and arguments of thy divinely enlightened apostle, who is every where superlatively instructive and sublime, but especially when he opens to us the prospects of a future world! Lo! he stands, though with his feet on earth, his eye stedfast on Heaven, considering death, not as a tyrant sent to disturb our peace; but as a mes. senger of God, employed to “ dissolve our earthly “ house of this tabernacle that we may be clothed upon with our house, which is from Heaven.”—
“ For we know,” says he, in another place*, " that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dis“ solved, we have a building of God, an house not “made with hands, eternal in the Heavens? For “ in this searthly] house we groan, earnestly desir
to be clothed upon with our house which " is from Heaven.”
Brethren! when I read this passage, from our blessed apostle, in conjunction with our text, as well as many others expressive of the true spirit of primitive christianity; I am doubtful (as saith an old commentator) whether most to admire the exalted temper of the apostles and first followers of Christ; or to deplore the low and desponding spirit of the modern professors of Christianity--so heavenly and magnanimous were the former! so earthly and abject the latter! The former were always raising their affections to things above to their “house not made with hands, “ eternal in the Heavens;" the latter too often im. muring themselves deeper and still deeper within the walls of their “ earthly house of this tabernacle!"
And whence comes this difference between the truly primitive and modern spirit of professing Christians ? Whence, brethren, but from what the apostle suggests? The former considered the present life only as a pilgrimage, and this whole world as but an inn, or short refreshing place, in their way to the regions of immortality and glory! They looked
passage thither as a scene of perils—a passage through a valley of sorrow and tears—and that, for the trial of their faith and exercise of their hope, they were called to a constant warfare with enemies both within and without them. The soul they considered as their truly better and immortal part, worthy of all their care- The body but as of an inferior naturema tabernacle, a tent, a cottage, an earthen vessel, a mere temporary abode, or rather the prison-house, of the soul ; in
itself more brittle than glass, decaying and constantly mouldering away, subject to diseases, pain and every vicissitude of the surrounding elements. And thus, daily considering the vanity and the emptiness of earthly things, their affections were more and more weaned from this world. They becamc impatient of the dross of body; their souls penetrated by faith through the clouds of this mortality; and they obtained some foretaste of the immense good things laid up
for them in a world to come. They acquired some just and ravishing conceptions of that building of God, that house not made with hands, that celestial body, with which the soul was to be united. (for the nourishment of their hope and the exercise of their charity) in the mansions of glory-And therefore, far from being awed or terrified at the se. paration of the soul from the body, or apprehensions from the dissolution of their earthly tabernacle, and of its dust mixing again with its kindred dust; they groaned earnestly within themselves, waiting for the adoption, that is the redemption of the body, that they might be clothed upon with their heavenly house, “ and so be forever with the Lord.”
But can we say, brethren, that this is the general temper of those who call themselves Christians in the present day? Can we say that we are always looking forward to our future end? Or rather do we not keep ourselves blind to the future, ignorant of our destiny, or without any guesses concerning another world? We rather wish to consider the present as our only world, and death as an everlasting sleep-a total annihilation of, perlaps, soul and body! Wherefore,
if we think of an approaching dissolution, we sorrow, as men having no hope, beyond the narrow precincts of the grave. If any dark glimmerings of another world intrude upon our quiet, we strive to stifle the divine sparklings in the soul, and hate to converse with the God within us, or think of any future state. And thus, far from rejoicing at the notices nature gives of an approaching dissolution of our mortal part; far from groaning earnestly to be clothed upon with our immortal house, and meeting death in the full hope of glory; I may appeal to yourselves, whether the very name of death be not as a thuncler-stroke to us! We startle, we turn pale, we tremble before him as the king of terrors -and, at his approach, we cling faster and still faster to this evanescent speck of earth, loth to let go our hold. Few, too few, consider death in the right view, as a welcome messenger sent from God to summon the soul (if, peradventure, prepared) to heaven and glory. Few consider that, although his marks are sure, he shoots not an arrow but what is directed by the wisdom of our adorable Creator. In this view we consider him not; but, on the other hand, we consider him as a cruel tyrant, come to disturb our repose, to rob us of our joys and to separate us from all that we hold dear. We look upon him as the merciless ravisher of rarents from children, and children from parents; wives from husbands, and husbands from wives. We view him as the despoiler of our fortune, breaking in upon all our busy projects and best prospects; tearing us from our dearest friends and relatives, levelling our fame and proudest honours with the dust, turning our beauty into deformity, our strength into rotteness and our
very names into oblivion. We behold him dealing with others as with ourselves, neither sparing the young nor the old, the feeble nor the strong, the rich nor the poor, the beggar in his rags, nor the proudest ruler in his purple. We find him neither to beregardful of our pride, nor to be soothed by our flattery, tamed by our intreaties, bribed by our benefits, softened by ourlamentations, nor diverted by accident or length of time. His weapons of destruction are numerous, and we are unable to draw one of them from his gripe. A thousand ministers of vengeance attend his callSword, pestilence, famine and fell disease; the air, the earth, the sea, the fire, and the beasts of the field, are the executicners of his will against man; and, more dreadful to tell, man himself-monstrous depraved man—becomes the minister of death against his fellow-man! With scorns and with wrongs, with imprisonments, with torments, with poisons and deadly engines of destruction, man preys upon man, at thy call, O death, and heaps up thy vast triumphs! Hence it is that thou art so terrible, and that we startle at thy name, and tremble at thy approach. Yet still, by the due use of reason, enlightened by the blessed considerations and doctrines of our text, after the example of the apostles and saints and pure proffessors of Christianity in every age, death might be disarmed of his sting and spoiled of his victory !
If to die were only the lot of a few, we might repine and startle at the partial decree. But since no age that is past hath been exempted from his strokes, nor shall any age that is to come; why should we, with unavailing sorrow and unprofitable