Imatges de pàgina

"Soon I must appear before the judgment-seat of Christ, to give account of myself to him, and what a dreadful article in the account, would this wicked action be, should I consent to the commission of it?" When solicited to trifle away a day, or a week, in vanity, we should be ready to reply, "I have but a few days to spend on earth; I know not but this may be my last; I am therefore bound to employ it well, in the duties proper to it. I have no time to throw away in negligence and folly." Such advantages might arise from the habitual, and serious thoughts of death.

2. Are there so many things in the death of the righteous to render it desirable? This suggests great comfort, and support to us, when we are called to part with pious friends, by death. The change, to them, is safe and happy. It is the period of their trials, sorrows, and temptations. They have weathered the storms of this tempestuous world, and arrived at the haven of everlasting rest. They are entered into the joy of their Lord. O how comforting these considerations concerning them! It would hardly consist with love and friendship, to wish them back again, in this world of trouble and sin.

Such supporting sentiments, I doubt not, we have just reason to entertain, concerning the late worthy pastor of this church, and society, on whose funeral we are now attending. Judging by the fruits of piety and virtue which appeared in him, had we not abundant ground to number him among the righteous in a gospel sense, while he lived? And have we not the same ground to consider the change by death, which has lately taken place upon him, as safe and happy; and as having transmitted his spirit to the rewards of the righteous in the kingdom of his great Lord and Master? Though I am not fond of funeral eulogia, yet silence on the removal of one eminently pious, and useful, in the church of Christ, might be censurable. I wish I was better able to do justice to his character and memory.

The great Author of nature was pleased to endow him with very good mental powers. These being brightened and improved by a learned education, united to a firm and happy constitution of 'body, and sanctified by God's grace, fitted him to discharge with dignity and usefulness, the duties of the Christian and ministerial character: He shone with distinguished lustre, in the orb in which He, who holdeth the stars in his right hand, was pleased to fix him. Not only this society, and this town, but the neighboring ones, have seen and felt, the radiance and influence of this "burning and shining light." He was a zealous defender of what he took to be "the faith once delivered to the saints." He treated much on what have been called, the peculiar doctrines of grace. These, he considered, as doctrines according to godliness: he constantly maintained it, as a faithful saying, that they who

believe in Jesus, should be careful to perform good works. He knew the great design of preaching too well; and pursued it with too much fidelity, to give into the practice of which some are so fond-the practice of entertaining people with the subtleties of metaphysics; which tend rather to amuse, or perplex, than to impress the conscience, mend the heart and reform the life. As he meant always to be understood, he used great plainness of speech. A more courageous and faithful reprover of vice, both in public, and private, perhaps hath never been known among us. He complied with the direction given to the prophet; "Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, to show my people their transgressions, and their sins." He was, on proper occasions, a Son of Thunder, endeavoring, by the terrors of the law, to awaken secure and hardened sinners; to point out to them the dreadful danger of a course of sin, and impenitency. But he knew how, happily to change his voice, and to become a Son of Consolation; and by the soft and winning charms of the gospel, to lead weary souls to Christ for rest; and to comfort those that are cast down.

He was diligent, laborious, and fervent in his work, and did not, in his public services, offer to the Lord, that which cost him nothing; but giving himself to reading, meditation, and prayer, brought into the sanctuary, what he used to speak of by the term of beaten oil, i. e. well-studied, and well-connected discourses; adapted to the several ages, characters, and circumstances of his people, and to the present aspects of divine Providence. You, of this society, I trust, are witnesses to the fidelity and tenderness with which he performed the more private parts of ministerial duty visiting the sick-counselling, instructing and comforting them-praying with and for them-endeavoring to speak a word in season to them-and to help them to a proper improvement of the dispensations of Providence. How "he exhorted and comforted, and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children."

And did not his life and conversation happily correspond to his doctrine and instruction? Are ye not witnesses, and God also, "how holily, and justly, and unblamably he behaved himself among you?" He was a lover and promoter of peace-diligent and skilful in his endeavors to quench the coals of beginning strife, before they kindled into a flame.

How steady a friend-how warm an advocate was he, for civil and religious liberty, and the rights of mankind? How firm a patriot in the late struggle for freedom? And it is remarkable, that the last public service he performed, in character of a minister, was to lead in your devout acknowledgments to God, for espousing the cause of America-establishing our independence, and restoring

to us the blessing of peace. He was a friend to the order, discipline, and government of the New England churches called Congregational. He was kind and helpful to them; and to his brethren in the ministry; and often invited to counsel and advise in matters of difficulty. Though he had much warmth and fire in his temper and constitution, yet it was not an ignis fatuus: He could not be justly called an enthusiast, in religion, as he happily tempered his zeal with meekness and prudence.

He was honored with long life, and usefulness and was perhaps an unparalleled instance of carrying on ministerial labors without being interrupted by any bodily infirmity, for the space of fiftythree years, from the time of his settlement. But the best constitutions must fail at length. The prophets do not live for ever. He, after serving God in the gospel of his Son, for more than fifty-five years, now rests from his labor. He died, we doubt not, the death of the righteous-a death attended with hope, peace and safety. His last sickness, which was very painful, he bore with much patience and submission to the divine will. He viewed the approaches of his change, with Christian calmness and fortitude. He appeared willing to depart and be with Christ. This account of the state of his mind, I have from those who were with him in his last days and hours. He is gone, we trust, to receive the reward of a faithful servant-and, " having turned many to righteousness," of which we hope he hath been instrumental, "to shine as the brightness of the firmament, and as a star for ever and ever."

We pray God to sanctify his death to the bereaved children, and posterity. Though the loss you have sustained is great, yet you have many considerations suited to comfort and support you under it. You should be thankful that you enjoyed him so long, and that he was made so great a blessing to you. We hope you will receive and enjoy much benefit still, from the recollection of his good instructions and pious example, and from his fervent prayers which he presented to the throne of grace for you. We wish you to possess much of his spirit of piety, and exemplary virtue; and that in your several stations, you may serve God faithfully to the death, and receive a crown of life, that shall never fade away.

May we, my fathers and brethren in the ministry, be duly affected, and instructed by the removal of this aged and venerable servant of God, from laboring with us in the gospel harvest! Are we not ready to cry after this ascending prophet, as Elisha did after Elijah. "My Father, my Father-the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof!" O that a double portion of that Spirit, which furnished him for, and assisted him in his work, might rest upon us! Let us labor to be followers of him, so far as he was

of Christ. Soon our days will be numbered and finished; and all opportunity to do any thing for the advantage of our own souls, or of those committed to our care, will be at an end. Let us work while it is day, with fidelity, diligence, and zeal, sensible that the night is approaching, in which no man can work.

What shall I say to you, the beloved church and society in this place? God hath removed from your head, your late worthy and venerable pastor, who has for so many years been ministering to your fathers, and to you. I trust you have a conviction upon your minds, that he has been a faithful minister to you; that he hath taken much pains, to set your duty before you, and to teach you the way of salvation through Jesus Christ. Those lips, which, as Solomon says of the lips of the righteous, fed many, are now closed in the silence of death. No more will you hear that strong and penetrating voice, which has so often been lifted up like a trumpet, to teach, admonish and warn you respecting the things of your everlasting peace. Doth it not become you, my friends, seriously to inquire with yourselves how you have received, heard and improved the counsels and instructions you enjoyed, under his ministry. If any of you have turned a deaf ear to all those faithful warnings, admonitions, and counsels, which he hath delivered, with a deep and tender concern for the good of your souls-if after all, you continue impenitent, and hardened in sin, O how dangerous is your condition! Are you not sensible, that you shall be called to an account for all the gospel privileges which you have enjoyed? What a painful meeting will you have with your deceased pastor, at the bar of Christ, if you persist in your sins till death! What cutting reflections, when your consciences and your Judge shall remind you of the many weeks, and months, and years, in which you enjoyed his plain, serious, and faithful instruction; and yet closed your life, without any practical and experimental acquaintance with that way of salvation, which he opened and explained! and that glorious Saviour, whom he so earnestly and tenderly recommended to your affections, and your choice! O! be entreated to consider the danger of your case, before it becomes hopeless. Bless God, that the overtures of his mercy are still continued to you. To-day, while it is called to-day, hear his voice, and go not on to harden your hearts.

But I hope the labors of your deceased minister have had a more favorable influence on many of you-that you have received the truths of the gospel, delivered by him, in the love of them— that you have embraced, with a cordial faith, that glorious Redeemer of lost men, whom he hath so often, and so affectionately recommended to you-and that having received Christ Jesus the Lord, you have been careful to walk in him, by lives of exemplary piety and holiness. May not you, with whom this is the case,

look forward with a pleasing expectation, to that glorious day, when you shall meet your deceased pastor, at the right hand of Christ, to be each other's joy and crown, in the mansions of glory?

Let me, my friends of this church and society, with all the warmth of Christian affection, entreat you to endeavor to improve well the loss you have sustained, in the death of your minister, and to conduct properly in your bereaved and destitute circumstances. Trust in the great Shepherd and Bishop of souls, to guide, to defend, and to feed you; and to prevent your being scattered as sheep without a shepherd. Pray for his guidance, into proper steps, to obtain another pastor, after his own heart. Endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Live in love and peace, and the God of love and peace shall be with you and bless you.

I shall close the discourse with a third inference from what has been said, viz.

3. How foolish and dangerous is it to content ourselves with an indolent wish to die the death of the righteous, without that care and pains which are necessary to this happy end? The thing is of the highest importance, an object of the greatest magnitude. But is it not an unattainable good? We ought not to consider it as such. It may, by the aids of divine grace, be attained, if we are not wanting in proper endeavors for that purpose. We have the fullest evidence of God's readiness to afford his blessing to succeed suitable exertions, and render them effectual. Do you ask what may be deemed such? You may be sure that cold wishes, and languid desires, like those of Balaam, are not. If they were, who would not die the death of the righteous? Who would fail of this happy end? Those who are most devoted to sinful pleasures, of one kind and another, when they could enjoy them no longer, would be glad of a safe and peaceful death. But we must expect that the end of our life will be like the course of it. Wishes and hopes, that it may be otherwise, will prove vain and fruitless. What a man soweth, in the seed-time of life, that shall he reap, at his death; at the end of the world, which is the harvest. Balaam could be never the better at death, and in the future state, for the wish in our text, if he persisted in the practice of unrighteousness.

Nor do I conceive that persons have much to expect, if, just at the close of life, they turn such wishes into earnest cries to heaven. "Lord, deliver me from the sting of death, which is sin. Save me from the second death. Let not the iniquities of my life cut me off from hope, safety, and happiness, when I pass out of this world into another. Though I have never been reconciled to the practice of holiness here, yet take me-O take me into thy holy presence in heaven. Call not my sins to remembrance in

« AnteriorContinua »