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ance of a future state, the remission of sins, and a glorious reward for the just. After all the arguments that unassisted reason and philosophy could bring, the fears of having the body laid down in the clay tomb, and the thoughts of dreary annihilation, startled and astonished the soul on the one hand—or, on the other, if there were any more enlightened, who believed, or rather hoped, the body's resurrection, and the soul's continuance after death, they were still at a loss how to regain the favour of their offended gods. In short, all was doubt and distraction and despair* among them, at that last period, when it behoves the soul to be left easy, tranquil and recollected.
But how different is the matter under the Gospel of Christ! We arc there taught, that what we falsely call the hour of our death, is but the hour of our birth to life eternal. We there learn the true meaning of these ancient expressions—" I will ransom them from the power of the grave—I will redeem them from death; O Death, I will be thy plagues—O Grave, I will be thy destruction^."
The Gospel lifts our eye to immortal scenes. It shews us a reconciled God, and Jesus the Mediator seated at his right hand. It teaches us a method by which the account of our stewardship may be settled even in this life; by which our sins may be blotted out of the registry of Heaven, even though they be written with a pen of iron, and graven with the point of a diamond.
• " The great, th' unbounded prospect lay before them,
Hosea, xiii, 10.
To the Christian a light has arisen in darkness; and his prospects are extended beyond the grave, and stretched down through immeasurable eternity. Herein is the vast superiority of our religion above all others, in that it hath not only taught us how to live, but likewise how to die. Our blessed Saviour, having published life and immortality to all such as repent, believe and obey his gospel, has, in respect to them, taken away the sting and removed the fear of death.
Animated with the celestial views of futurity, the sincere Christian, who has seen and felt the vanity of all earthly things; who has meditated much upon time and eternity, the enjoyments of this world and the next; he who is fully convinced of the truth of God's promises; who has with all good conscience endeavoured to do his duty here; who has sincerely lamented the errors he may have committed, and embraced the terms of pardon and salvation offered by God in Christ, with an awful conviction of their truth and efficacy.—He, I say, who has done these things, can have but little left to do when he comes to die.
Such an one, my brethren, will appear in a very superior light to the greatest of those who have died without these advantages. He will be free from their doubts, their distractions, and their horrors; and will enjoy a soul-felt recollection and trust, which the enemies of religion cannot easily be made to conceive. When all is sorrow and mourning around him, he will be superlatively raised above the general weakness. Heaven and glory will begin to open upon him, and he will be in the midst of his comforters, the chief comforter, and (to borrow an image from a pious and sublime* writer) like some lofty mountain, serene and bright, retaining the splendors of the setting sun, while damps and shades have
covered the vales below!
I doubt not, every person present has already anticipated my intended application of this discourse. We are here met to perform the last obsequies to the body of our deceased pastor—a man venerable in years, and who was a striking pattern of Christian resignation under a long and severe illness. Those who knew him best in that situation, knovr that his chief concern was not for himself, but for the distressed and perplexed state of his congregation.
Characters, my brethren, in funeral sermons, in these days, lie under some disgrace; being too often the productions of men willing to shew their own eloquence; or perhaps too complaisant to the tenderness of mournful relatives. But, without incurring either of these imputations, I can with truth say of your deceased minister, that he was a man of strict honesty, one that hated dissimulation and a lie, exemplary in his life and morals, and a most zealous member of our episcopal church.
These were some of his virtues as a Christian, and they were useful in his generation. Frailties he no doubt, had too, as a man; but, as they were never injurious to others, so we may well believe that they have long before now found shelter in the bosom of divine mercy ; and what mortal shall seek to draw them from that sacred refuge? He had full time given him to prepare for his death, and it came at last, earnestly wished for by him; so that he cannot so properly be said to " have been taken away, as to have tarried till God came."
* Dr. Young. . VOL. I. E
And now, my brethren, a new scene opens to you who are members of these congregations ; or, at least, to you who are the representatives thereof. Behold the breathless clay of your late pastor placed on the brink of a grave. In a few moments, its yawning jaws will be closed over him, and thus will the scene between him and you be forever shut!
Think, then, what a weight has fallen upon you? There is a stewardship in your hands, of a peculiar sort, for which you are accountable both to God and man ; and which I forbore to speak of till now. 'Tis the stewardship for this church and for this people— a church conspicuous in her situation, and a people daily increasing in multitude. Consider that what you may do, is a work which may affect you, and vour children, and the cause of religion, for generations to come; and what is once done is not easily to be recalled.—Proceed, therefore, we pray you, cooly, justly and deliberately, in this great matter. Let neither solicitations, nor prejudices, nor any wrong passion, be able to bias you.
The Gospel of Christ (says a great divine), can only be propagated " by the same means and the same temper, wherewith our blessed Saviour began to propagate it;" not by noise and bustle, not by vain words and empty sounds; but by a noble spirit of charity towards the persons of men—by strength of reason, clearness of argument, and an example of virtue and righteousness. If men of these qualities be encouraged to minister among you, then we may hope that the vine, which God's right-hand has planted in this remote corner of the earth, will " send out her boughs unto the sea, and her branches unto the utmost rivers." The contrary, we trust, will never happen through any fault in your stewardship*.
These councils, I hope, you will take in good part from me, at a time when I am sure I cannot be suspected of any interested views. God knows bur this may be my last opportunity of ever speaking to you from this place.—My heart is full on the occasion;—and had not my noticef been so very short, and the time urgent, I should have enlarged farther. But I shall sum up all by exhorting you to stand firm in your faith, and above all, to cultivate that divine charity, which is the very perfection of Christianity. The other virtues and graces bring us near to God by distant approaches. But, by this divine virtue of charity, we are not merely led and drawn unto Him; but we press, as it were, into His presence by it, and are thereby prepared for his eternal society. Our faith, after death, shall be swallowed up in vision, and our hope in fruition; but our charity shall live for ever, and be a main ingredient in our happiness through the endless ages of eternity,
* The Revd. Dr. Richard Peters was elected his successor.
t The Author had but a day or two to prepare this discourse, and no leisure to revise it before it was first published; being immediately obliged to embark for England. This, it is hoped, will behis apology if it should be found less perfect than the subject requires; for it cannot now be mueH improved without drawing it tqo far from its original plan,