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AT the tomb of Lazarus, Jesus wept; and at this grave my tender feelings are uncommonly strong: not only because of that high esteem which I had for my senior Brother, whose corpse we have now committed to the silent sepulchre; but also on account of my having so recently stood here, to address my fellow-mortals at the funeral of his dear deceased wife.* But, whether our serious impressions be acute or languid, we should endeavour to improve the affecting event which has called us together, by employing a few minutes in suitable reflections.
That each of us must die, we all admit; and that the time of our exit is quite uncertain, we cannot deny. Of this uncertainty we are daily reminded, by those events which are taking place. How often are one and another cut off by a sudden stroke! to which we, who are now healthy and vigorous, are equally liable. On this uncertainty of life, therefore, it is our wisdom, our duty, and our advantage, frequently to meditate; ardently praying, that we may be ready for death at any moment, and found of the Lord in peace.
The great solemnity which must attend our approaching decease, whenever it comes, very loudly demands our serious attention. We are frequently, * Mrs. Stennett died March 16, 1795.
indeed, while possessed of health and ease, in a solemn situation. Thus it is, for instance, whenever, in holy worship, we approach the universal Sovereign for our God, with regard to his purity, his jealousy, and his justice, is a consuming fire. They, therefore, who serve him acceptably, treat him with reverence. But when, in religious worship, there is no solemnity, there is no reverence; and where there is no reverence of the Divine Majesty, there can be no devotion.-Then also do we feel ourselves in a solemn situation, when a fellow mortal expires before our eyes and even at the present instant, our circumstances are very solemn. For here we have, not only the gaping tomb, the coffin, and the corpse, of our deceased Brother; but we are surrounded with multitudes of tombs, of coffins, and of corpses. We are, if I may so speak, in Golgotha; the place of skulls. We tread on human dust, and are encompassed with all the gloomy apparatus of death.' A deeply serious turn of mind, therefore, must become our present circumstances.-The solemnity attending these different situations, however, does not come home to our bosoms, does not penetrate the soul, equally with that which, we have reason to apprehend, will be experienced, on the near approach of our own dissolution: provided we have, in our concluding moments, the powers of reason in their proper exercise. For who can feel himself near the last pangs of expiring nature, without a peculiar degree of solemnity? Who can consider himself as just entering the world of spirits, and into an untried state of existence, without feeling himself pervaded with solemnity? Who can perceive himself actually leaving all terrestrial things,
and launching into a boundless eternity, without having the most solemn sense of entire dependence on God, for blessedness and for being, penetrating his very soul? Now, as all these things await us, it must be rational, it must be wise, it must be an article of indispensable duty, frequently, in our meditations, to anticipate these future events, and earnestly to seek to be ready for them.
On the extremely important consequences of death, we ought, in a particular manner, to reflect. Death destroys all our domestic and civil relations. Death, for a time, dissolves that mysterious union which, in the present state, subsists between the soul and the body. Death transmits the immortal spirit into the invisible world; and reduces the body to a deformed mass of senseless matter. When death has taken place on a fellow creature, his final state is fixed, either in happiness, or in misery, that is inconceivable and everlasting.
Nor should we forget, that death is an effect of sin, an appointment of God, and the strongest expression of divine justice, that is visible to us in the present state. Sin entered into the world, and death by sin.-It is appointed for men once to die. This awful appointment was announced to man, immediately after his apostasy. Dust thou art, and to dust shalt thou return, was part of the sentence pronounced by the Supreme on our first offending father. Death ought not, therefore, to be considered as due to nature: but, detached from the blessings of redemption by Jesus Christ, as the most awful visible effect of the divine curse, and as the arrest of eternal justice. Such is the representation which is given of death by inspired writers: and had it not
been for sovereign mercy, revealed in atoning blood; it could never have been justly viewed in a more favourable point of light. So depraved and guilty, so polluted and wretched is man, as descended from the original parents of our species; that, had not God, by the gift and the death of his own incarnate Son, commended his love to sinners, the whole human race must have been involved in ruin.
But, though all have sinned, and though all deserve to perish, there is redemption by Jesus Christ; which redemption, revealed in the word of grace, is a foundation of hope for the vilest. Though the vicarious work of Jesus, and the regenerating energy of the Holy Spirit, do not secure believers from temporal death; yet, as by the former, they are furnished with pardon and peace; and as, by the latter, their hearts receive an heavenly turn, being fitted for communion with God; so they have a solid foundation for hope of eternal felicity.
Remarkably expressive of divine authority, and exceedingly rich with divine grace, is the language of our adorable Jesus, when he says, I am the resurrection, and the life. He that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: aud whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Delightful, glorious truths! That blessed book, the Bible, opens a door of hope, and a prospect of happiness beyond the grave, for the guilty and the wretched. Yes, the glorious gospel of the blessed God, reveals a Saviour for the chief of sinners-a Saviour, whose atoning blood is equal to all our guilt; whose mediation is commensurate to all our wants; and whose grace abounds over all our unworthiness. Complete provision is therefore made, for the confi