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FIRST PREACHED DECEMBER 22, 1793.
1 THESS. Chap. IV. Ver. 1?—18.
But I would not have you ignorant, Brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no Hope.—For if we believe that Jksus died and rose again; even so, them also, which sleep in Jksus, will God bring with Him, &c.
IN my two foregoing Sermons, (No. IV, V.) from this luminous text; the General Heads, under which it was pro-posed to manage the sublime subject in a series of discourses, were stated to be Four*. The first Head, viz. the main Causes of the Fear of Death, was pretty fully discussed, in the two former Sermons. We were there led, in our meditations, to the tombs of our departed Friends.—We shed some natural drops to their memory—we weighed, in part, the terrors and the utmost strength of Death—we dared to enter his dark Mansions— nay we entered so far, that we must not now start back, nor cast so much as one " longing lingering look behind," to the Sodom of this World; but, setting
» See page 56, antes, TOL. I. O
one foot on the Grave, strive to stretch the other forward to the very Porch of Heaven; not intimidated to look upwards to the Precincts of everlasting day, notwithstanding the awful Scenes through which we must pass, and what we must expect to behold and to hear on our way—" The world on fire beneath our feet—the Voice of the Archangel and the Trump of God sounding on high, to rouse the Dead from their long, long iron-slumbers—the shaking of the dry bones, coming together, bone to his bone, from the four quarters of the world, from the Earth and from the Sea, at the Summons of the Almighty! But let us not be intimidated, I say! Our text has brought comfort to our view; and, therefore, we will take up our subject again, where our last Sermon, (No. V.) from this text, left us, namely, examining the Four great Causes of the Fear of Death, referred to above, viziFirst, Want of Faith in Chiist Jesus, and a more intimate Union of our Souls with Him, through the Grace of his Holy Spirit.
Secondly, An overweening attachment to what we call the Good Things of this world.
Thirdly, Want of consideration and of due reflection, on the Shortness of our time, and the uncertain Tenure, and perishable Nature, of all our enjoyments here.
Fourthly, Doubts, real or imaginary, instilled or cherished, by means of a vain and superficial Philosophy, " wise above what is written," concerning a future state of existence; and whether the change of our condition, from this world to another, will be for the better or the worse*?' .
• See page 67, antea.
An examination of the second of these causes Was begun in Sermon V; and ascribed chiefly to & false Estimate of what we call our good things, and a vehement desire to hold uninterrupted Possession of them. They are enumerated, as attached to the various stages of life, as follows*, viz.
"Youth and Beauty; Health and Strength; "Riches and Honours; Power and Greatness; Wis"dom and Knowledge; disinterested Virtue; public "Spirit, and the like." These chiefly entangle men, who consider themselves somewhat above the common ranks; and who have to share also with the poorest mortal that is born of woman, in that natural Reluctance, those insuperable recoilings of grief, springing from the intimate Union of Soul and Body, on the approach of Death; and the prospect that two such loving partners must soon sustain and undergo a Divorce from each other, by the fierce Mandate of a relentless and unappeasable tyrant.
We proceed now, as was proposed in the conclusion of the last Sermon (which was addressed to the Devotees of Pleasure of all ranks, especially among the young and gay) to estimate the Bliss of those of higher ranks and ages; hoping the Young also; if they look for rank and age, will still continue among the number of our patient Hearers. For the sake of those who wish for the Arguments of Experience, Wisdom and true Philosophy, I can use none of more Weight, nor more venerable for their Antiquity, than those of Solomon; who was accountcd the Wisest Man upon Earth, before the Light of the Christian Rev-elation; who nude the truest Estimate, and taught the most sublime Doctrine concerning Pleasure; namely, that there is no substantial or lasting Bliss but in the Fear Of God And KeepIng His Commandments—"RejoiceOYoungMan in the days of thy Youth, whilst thou walkest in the ways of thy Heart; but, for all these things, God will bring thee into judgment"—All the joys thou canst taste from the Syren-Cup of Pleasure, are mixed with such Poison, as to accomplish more than hah" the Work of Death before the time of his Natural approach to thy ruined Tabernacle.
* See page 70, ante*.
His Sermon upon all the above recited sources of Pleasure, namely, Wisdom, and Knowledge, 8tc &c is a master-piece of Argument and Eloquence; for no man ever lived before or after him, who had greater Opportunities, or larger Means of enjoying, and estimating the worth of every one of them; and, therefore, He shall deliver for me the remainder of this day's Discourse.
But, to the men of this world, whose very Hearts and Souls are wedded to its enjoyments, who have formed to themselves vast Happiness and Contentment from the accomplishment of their projects in it, there is no doubt, but his Sermon, and all the Arguments leading to his sublime and interesting Conclusion, may, at first view, appear perfect Paradoxes; the Result, not of sober Judgment and deliberate Inquiry, but of deliberate Prejudice, and a gloomy disappointed mind!
What regard, h will be said, is to be paid to a Preacher, with all his Character of Wisdom, who runs so contrary to the Sentiments and Tenor of this world, as to tell us—
'' That the day of a man's Death is better than "the day of his Birth; the House of Mourning better *' than the House of Feasting; Sorrow better than "Laughter; Rebukes better than Praises; Wisdom "better than Riches; and the end of a thing better "than its Beginning?"
But, before we pass judgment on his Sermon, let us hear him speak or preach a little for himself— The subject is the most interesting that can engage the heart of man; namely, to determine, wherein consists the Supreme Good, or chief Happiness, of our nature. And, in this inquiry he lays it down as a great and incontestible first Principle, or Axiom—" That whatever is vain, transient and perishable, cannot be the true materials of Happiness, to Beings constituted as w*e are."
He begins his Address in the most solemn manner; and his Sermon is to a large Audience, the whole people of Israel;—" Hear, O Congregation of Israel! the words of a Preacher whom you did not expect, even the son of David your king; whose Wisdom and Experience stand highly extolled and confessed among all your Tribes! My subject is Happiness, and an estimate of the Good Things of this World; Which men consider as the materials thereof."
But be persuaded by me, that the Happiness, which you all desire, is not to be found in yourselves, nor in this world, where you seek for it. "All things