« AnteriorContinua »
favored in this respect with those who being dead, do yet speak to you.
3. Christians in a more private capacity, who have been eminent for piety, when dead, are lively preachers to the living ; always by their good example, frequently by their counsels and exhortations, by their patience under sufferings, their prayers, their dying speeches and their religious diaries; and sometimes in a very eminent manner by the circumstances which attend their being called out of time. These things may be common to Christians of a public and private capacity; rulers in the civil state, the ministers of religion, and private Christians may be eminent for their real sanctity, may be of very exemplary conversation, may abound in their counsels, exhortations and prayers ; their dying speeches may be very observable, and their diaries of great use; and the circumstances that attend their being called out of time, may be very instructive and awakening: and in all these they being dead may yet speak to us : but according as their capacity has been enlarged and they have excelled in these things, so much the more weighty and forcive are their instructions when they are dead to the living.
But here I'am to consider the Christian, whether of a public or private character, without any particular regard to his station ; and shall say, that Christians may when dead, still instruct and benefit survivors by the memory and impressions of their good example. For Christians of the lowest rank may by the exemplary holiness and usefulness of their lives shine as lights in the world. They may be eminent for the religion of the closet, of the family, and of God's public worship, for justice and charity and temperance; and in all be very sincere and upright. They may account the day of the Lord holy and honorable, and honor the Son of man thereon ; they may remember God's day to keep it boly, and reverence God's sanctuary, by devout attending upon the ministry of the word, and the other institutions of our Lord and Saviour : they may be strict in the religion of the family, taking care that God may bave an altar where they have a tent, and that the morning and evening sacrifice may be seasonably and suitably offered ; they may walk in their houses with a perfect heart, and charge those under their care and watch to keep the commandments of the Lord ; and use all proper methods of example, instruction, counsel, and correction, to bring up those under their inspection and care, in the nurture and admonition of the Lord; or if they be persons of a more private capacity in the family, then they may be eminent and exemplary for duly attending on and complying with such methods of piety; they may be very observable for secret devotion, for their close walk with God, keeping the power of godliness alive in their own
hearts, by serious meditation, by solemn supplication, and by diligent attending the stated hours for communion with the blessed God, through the exercise of faith, and the influences of the Spirit
They may be exemplary also for their Christian watchfulness and faithfulness over and towards those who are their brethren by grace and in covenant relation, watching for their helping to provoke them to love and good works, counselling and exhorting them to walk on in the right way of the Lord, and to cleave to him with full purpose of heart. They may likewise be exemplary for their patience in suffering affliction, in enduring hard and heavy trials, and in a steady adherence to God and duty in the darkest hours they meet with. Thus by their good examples, when dead, they may be lively preachers to all the surviving.
Again, by their prayers they may when dead yet speak to us : in the impressions that may remain upon our minds of the life, and zeal, and fervor of devotion therein; their pertinent expressions, their pleas and wrestlings and the holy violence which therein they offered to the kingdom of heaven. Further, by their dying speeches which may be very weighty, and which are wont to abide by those that have any regard to religion and virtue. Certainly that must come with weight and power, which comes from a soul full of grace, and just entering upon a life of glory.
Again, by their diaries, when dead, they may yet speak to us. Oftentimes those that are eminent for religion, keep a diary, in which they write down their experiences, and the workings of the Spirit of God with their spirits, and the dispensations of Providence towards them, and other things which are of use and service to them in their Christian course: And this may be of great service to others, to direct them in duty, and to encourage them therein, when they read what benefits and comforts others have reaped thereby, and to quicken them to walk “in the ways of wisdom which are ways of pleasantness, and her paths which are peace.
In a word, the circumstances which may attend the Christian's being called out of time, is one way wherein he being dead, may be a lively preacher to the living : and those are sometimes awful and surprising, sudden and very awakening, and so may make very deep impressions on the minds of survivors, whereby he being dead may yet speak to us. But I may but just mention things.
In the last place,
4. Christians of all ranks and denominations, when dead, may be lively preachers to the living, by having their characters, and the circumstances that attend their death, improved by others, for the quickening of the living to the things which are virtuous and praiseworthy. This hath been practised by the ministers of religion, to do honor to the memory of the eminently godly deceased,
and to improve the providence of God in their removal, for the benefit and advantage of those under their watch, by recommending their example wherein they followed Christ, and by calling upon the living to be ready to follow those who through faith and patience are inheriting the promises. And thus they being dead, do yet speak to us.
We pass on in the second place to inquire,
Quest. 2. What are the words of instruction, which the godly departed, as lively preachers, do speak to the living ? The answer shall be in several particulars.
1. The eminently godly departed, whether they were in a higher or lower capacity while they lived, do inculcate and urge this necessary duty, that we should “imitate them wherein they followed Christ.” That we should rernember their piety, their justice and charity, and should " follow their faith, considering the end of their conversation." We should look on what they have done, and do likewise. Thus our glorious Lord set himself for an example to all his followers, John xiii. 15. and in the iii. of Phil. 16, and 17. The apostle Paul exhorts the Philippians, “ Whereto they had attained, to walk by the same rule, and to mind the same things, and to be followers of him, and to mark them that walk so, as ye have us, (that is, the apostles of our Lord,) for an ensample.” And in many places in sacred writ, are the people of God exhorted to imitate those, whose " conversation is in heaven." Indeed this is but a just honor which the living owe to the pious memory of the godly deceased, to follow their example, wherein they did that which was virtuous and praiseworthy. And this is one of their instructions, which they being dead, by their past lives wherein they "exercised themselves to have consciences void of offence," do deliver unto the living.
2. They being dead, do yet speak this, that we who are the living, should remember and endeavor to profit by what they have said or done, that may be of service to us. Thus we should remenuber their godly deeds, and pious speeches, “which were as apples of gold, in pictures of silver;" we should remember their prayers, their counsels, and exhortations, their advices and directions. In an especial manner we should never forget their dying speeches, if they were then enabled to speak to us sensibly and solemnly, as persons just entering into the eternal world; for then if ever they will give weighty advice, and we should lay ourselves open as much as ever we can to the impressions of it, and should be very earnest with God to impress our minds therewithal, and to make us to profit thereby; that he would set it home upon our souls, and make it of advantage to us upon all occasions, to quicken us to duty and to deter us from sin. We should remember that we are formed for eternity, and that it will not be long before we must enter upon it, and that our pious friend, or friends, under a full persuasion hereof, and a realizing view, that they were just going the way whence they should not return, gave us advice of the most important nature, as rational, mortal and accountable creatures, and should consider, that their counsels if neglected and disregarded by us, will rise up in judgment against us, and witness to our rebellion against God: and therefore that it is highly our interest as well as our duty, to heed and observe what has been said to us at such a time, and it will be a very great aggravation of our sin and guilt, if we do not; and he who is a witness to the hardness of our hearts, and our unpersuadableness, will severely punish us, for thus turning a deaf ear to his calls; for indeed they are the calls of God, and we should look upon them as such, and let them have their weight with us. O let such consider this, who forget and disregard what their dying friends have said to them, and do not improve the legacies of this nature which they have left with them. God is witness as well as his people, of what your dying friends have spoken to some of you : But oh ! how little is it minded, how little regarded! Remember, Sirs, “God cannot be deceived, and he will not be mocked," and a book of remembrance is ever before bim, and when he makes inquisition, these things shall not be forgotten, but he will visit for these things. Then let us remember and carefully and faithfully improve what has been spoken to us in such a manner and at such a time.
3. Another instruction from the dead to the living is the certainty of death. This is what both the godly and the wicked concur and unite in, by dying to demonstrate to us, the certainty of death : " for we must all be gathered unto our people, as our neighbors, and brethren are gathered; there is no man hath power over the Spirit to retain the Spirit, we have not power in the day of death, and there is no discharge in that war. It is appointed for men once to die. By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin, and so death passeth upon all men, for that all have sinned.” Those that are dead then speak this unto us, that we must expect also to die, that we cannot avoid death, can neither fly from it, nor resist it.
4. The godly when dead speak this to the living, that it is a matter of the greatest concernment to them in the world to be prepared for death, and to prepare for it now: for we know not how soon or suddenly we may be cut off; "and there is no knowledge, wisdom or device in the grave whither we are all hastening.” And there is an eternity of happiness or misery before us, which we must enter upon as soon as ever our immortal spirits do quit this earthly house of their tabernacle ; and there will be
no opportunity of further trial, and preparation afterwards. As we would therefore be happy in the vision and fruition of God to all eternity, and avoid everlasting torments, the godly being dead, by the care which they took in this matter, and by the inconceive able bliss which they are gone to the possession of, as by faith we understand, speak to us, that it is a matter of the last importance, to prepare for our dissolution.
5. Another instruction which the godly being dead give us, is, that religion is no fiction. By dying in the faith they bear testimony to the truth of religion, that it is not as some atheistical minds would imagine, a contrivance to keep the world in awe, that it is neither the effect of policy for this purpose, nor yet the fruit of a weak and distempered brain, which some persons through melancholy, scare and affright themselves into.
But the godly who die in the faith of Christ, and with a steady adherence to the ways of true piety, they set to their seal that there is a God, a being of all possible perfections, worthy of the highest worship we are capable of performing unto him, and who ought to be served according to the revelation he hath made of himself, and of our duty in the Scriptures, which are bis revealed will : “Strong in the faith" of this, do the faithful in Christ Jesus resign their souls at death into the hands of their merciful Redeemer; and “ being dead speak thus unto us," that they have trusted their everlasting interest upon it, their precious and immortal souls upon it.
6. Another instruction which the godly being dead give us is, that religion is no burthen; "that Christ's yoke is easy and his burthen is truly light;" that Christianity and the discharging all the offices of it, is not so harsh, as the carnal mind is ready to imagine ; its laws are not so sour and severe as that is ready to conjecture ; that the glorious Author of the Christian religion is no uomerciful taskmaster, no cruel exactor of performances, when possibility and power are wanting, and the duties of religion are pleasant and delightful, affording comfort in the performance and satisfaction in the fulfilment. Religion will bear its own charges; and it pays great wages,
" the ways of wisdom are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace;" for herein the true Christian obtains peace of conscience and joy in the Holy Ghost. “ He hath that peace which the world can neither give nor take away; that peace of God which passeth all understanding,” and shall be everlastingly rewarded for all his labors and pains in religion.
7. Another instruction which the godly being dead give us, is, that to be truly and sincerely religious is a point of the greatest wisdom, this is to be wise for another and a better life; “Godliness is profitable for all things, having the promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.” So that he that is reli