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FIRST EPISTLE OF PAUL THE APOSTLE,
TO TAE THESSALONIANS,
CHAP. IV. 13. But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concern.
ing them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others
which have no hope. 14. For if we believe that Jesus died, and rose again, even so
them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him, 15. For this we say unto you, by the word of the Lord, that we
which are alive, and remain unto the coming of the Lord, shall
not prevent them which are asleep. 16. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a
shout, with the voice of the Archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first. 17. Then we which are alive and remain, shall be caught up to.
gether with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air :
and so shall we ever be with the Lord. 18. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.
YES, brethren and sisters! ye bereaved mourners for parents, husbands, wives, children and dearest relatives—say a solemn AMEN—and “com“ fort one another with these words”-For if there be consolation in this world—àmidst this suffering scene of man-here it is complete—and revealed to us, by a divinely illuminated apostle of Christ-lead. ing our meditations forward through all the future changes and periods of our existence and condition, as mortals and immortals, “ to DEATH, a RESUR" RECTION from the dead, a future JUDGMENT, and “ an ETERNAL WORLD to come.”
The consideration of these subjects—the greatest and most interesting which can engage the heart of a man or a CHRISTIAN (in the order I had designed) would have formed the concluding part of that body of sermons, which I had begun to deliver before these congregations, preparatory to their publication, agreeably to the request, and under the sanction, of the BISHOPS, CLERGY, and LAITY of our church, in general convention met*. Too long delayed (from that time indeed to the present) by the most serious family concerns, added to unavoidable duties of ano. ther nature, public as well as private; and uncertain of the number of days, or months, or years remaining to me, but certain that they cannot be many, and those attended with the decay of mental as well as bodily faculties; I cannot now flatter myself with the hopes of completing the whole of my proposed system, or leaving it, as intended, to my friends and the public, as the weak, but best fruits I can offer, of my occasional ministry among them for near half a century past. And what, in that order of things, would have been last, now presses forward as first on my mind The impressions of the dreadful calamity, from which we who are alive, remain monuments of God's mercy in the midst of his righteous judgments, must have awakened and alarmed the most secure and thought,
• See the Preface to this volume.
less among us; and have made us feelingly alive to every sober reflexion that concerns our future state and condition-viz. DEATH, A RESURRECTION from the dead, a fuiure JUDGMENT, and the opening the heavenly paradise--the everlasting KINGDOM of GLORY, to the Redeemed of God" to those who 4 sleep in the faith of Jesus.”—For, amidst the shafts of Providence, which have flown so thick around us, and amongst us, where is the man or the woman in this assembly, whose bosom is not deeply pierced, or whose tears do not this moment flow, for the loss of some of those, who were lately nearest and dearest to him or to her? a husband, a wife, a father, a mother, a brother, a sister, a son, a daughter? For me-ah! my throbbing breast-deep, deep, have the arrows* pierced-yet be still, in just resignation to his unerring will, who gives and takes away, by whom we live, move, and have our being—be still, while we proceed in the further review of this mournful groupe of departed friends and acquaintance! Who is there among us, who does not recall to memory many younger and stronger than themselves; between whose summons from this life and their commitment to that long home, the grave, few were the days or hours that intervened; while we yet remain, with time and opportunity offered, to examine the past, and to think of the future.
To assist your meditations in this respect, and to mingle comfort in our bitter cup of affliction, I have
• The author lost a beloved wife, one of the most accomplished among women ; whose memory remains dear to all who knew her. She died October 23, 1793
roberen, whose memory remains dear t
chosen the words of St. Paul, which have been just read as our text; a choice which I have the rather made, as the whole volumes of inspiration contain no words more evangelically comfortable, or suitable to our present situation; and, as I trust, the same words, and the reflexions thereon arising, which, through God's grace, I have found experimentally efficacious to pour balm into my own wounds, while yet fresh and bleeding, will, through the same grace, . be acceptable and effectual among you, in the like circumstances !
The text naturally divides itself into the following heads; each of which will afford subject-matter for at least one discourse
1st. Considerations on death; the nature and cause of his awful terrors; and how, through divine assistance, to combat and conquer them; to allay our sorrows for our departed friends, and prepare for our own departure.
2d. The certainty of a resurrection of the body from the grave; shewing that death is but a temporary evil; and that our sorrow should not be without hope, as others who have no belief in the resurrection of the dead.
3d. The certainty of a future judgment, and the award of an eternity of happiness to those who sleep in the Lord, or in the faith of the Gospel “ For them that sleep in Jesus will God bring with “ Him, and so we shall be forever with the Lord!”
4th. That, from all these considerations, the devout Christian may not only overcome the fear of death in himself, but derive an abundant source of conso
lation for the death of others--according to our apostle, who, in the sweetest accents of evangelical sympathy and love, in the last verse of our text-calls us to "s comfort one another with the hopes, after Death, “ and a Resurrection, of being forever with the " Lord !!!
I proceed now to the first head of discourse as pointed out in the text, namely—“Considerations on “ death, and how, through divine assistance, to sub. “ due and overcome his mighty terrors”—and Oh! Thou almighty fountain of all wisdom and grace, and Heavenly fortitude, aid me with thy divine spirit, that the great and awful subjects, which I am to handle, may not suffer through my feeble endeavours; but give me, for the sake of Jesus and his Gospel, to follow, with clear and unembarassed view, the steps and arguments of thy divinely enlightened apostle, who is every where superlatively instructive and sublime, but especially when he opens to us the prospects of a future world! Lo! he stands, though with his feet on earth, his eye stedfast on Heaven, considering death, not as a tyrant sent to disturb our peace; but as a messenger of God, employed to “ dissolve our earthly “ house of this tabernacle that we may be clothed "6 upon with our house, which is from Heaven.”
“ For we know,” says he, in another place*, " that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dis“ solved, we have a building of God, an house not " made with hands, eternal in the Heavens? For " in this searthly] house we groan, earnestly desir
• 2 Cor. V. 1. 2.