« PreviousContinue »
dered alone, as viewed in connection with the awful events which occasioned them. I hope therefore, that a recollection of the Doctor's eminent worth, and the loss his family, his flock, and the public sustain by his death, will cast a veil over the imperfections of this discourse, and fill every reader's heart with so much seriousness and tenderness, as may make way, for the plain remarks and admonitions contained therein, to impress it, and through the influences of the Spirit of Jesus, produce some valuable effect.
I cannot conclude this address without expressing my warmest gratitude to you, for all the respect and affection with which you honoured me, during the agreeable years I spent amongst you. And it is my earnest wish and prayer, that you may yet flourish, and be edified, walking in the fear of the Lord, and the comforts of the Holy Ghost: Particularly that you may act upon those noble and truly christian maxims of candor and unanimity, which your late pastor inculcated upon you, and the public, in all your future conduct, aird especially in the choice of his successor; that the head of the church would give you a pastor after his own heart, under whom you may daily grow in christian knowledge and holiness, and be training up for the perfection and happiness of the heavenly state. These are the daily prayers of,
My dear friends,
and Servant, for Jesus sake,
1 Cor. xv. 54. latter part.
Death is swallowed up in Victory.
HE and, at the same time, a most delightful scene: Grief for the dominion of sin and death, and the loss we are sustaining by his removal, joy in the supports of religion he feels, and the promises of the gospel he rests upon, take pl..ce in our minds by turns, and sometimes mingle together. But in a soul formed to a relish for virtuous friendship, and deeply impressed with the great truths of christianity, the joy will preponderate; and the pious heart will overflow with sacred delight to see the terrors of death removed, to observe how wonderlully God sustains his servants in their last conflict, and what an attestation they give to the fulness and sweetness of christian consolations. In this instance in particular, God graciously makes his providence a commentary upon his word, and illustrates the promises of his gospel by the joy and peace he diffuses into the hearts of his dying saints. Our text has often been the means of producing this joy, and is indeed one of the most comfortable declarations, that mortal creatures can hear; and the awful event, which directs my thoughts to it, contirms the excellency and suitableness of it. It should, certainly, be regarded by all with an attention becoming dying creatures. But there are two circumstances, my friends, to recommend it to your peculiar regard, viz. that it was exemplified in the closing scenes of the life of your late worthy pastor, so justly dear to you and to me, and that, out of a particular concern for your support and encouragement, living and dying, it was his express, his last, and almost dying request, that I would discourse to you from it, on this very melancholy occasion.
The excellent and reviving chapter of which the text is a part, was intended to confute the opinion of those who said, there was No resurrection of the dead*. Their error seems to have been in asserting, that what Christ and bis apostles had said .
* Whitby in loc.
of a resurrection, did not refer to a resurrection of the dead, but a resurrection or renovation to a life of holiness from a state of sin, which is justly and beautifully described as a state of death. This, probably, was the error of Hymeneus and Philetus, who said, that The resurrection is past already *. The apostle Paul therefore sets himself to prove at large, that there shall be a resurrection of the dead. He proves it possible, from the resurrection of Christ; a well known and undisputed fact. He proves it certain, from the connection between this fact, and the authority of the apostles to publish his religion ; of which this doctrine was so distinguishing and glorious a part ; and also from the relation, in which Christ, the last Adam stood to mankind. And as the objections against this doctrine chiefly arose from not understanding its nature, and the circumstances of the new body, he enlarges upon these topics in the latter part of the chapter; and concludes it with a divine and most eloquent rapture, describing the glorious resurrection of the saints, of whom alone he there speaks, and triumphing in the prospect of this blissful event; So, says he, when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, “ Death is swallowed up in Victory.” The text is a quotation from the prophecies of Isaiah, where it is said, He will swallow up death in victory t; and probably refers to the deliverance of the Israelites from that utter destruction, which the king of Assyria threatened, and attempted to bring upon them: A deliverance that was indeed, life from the dead. It is with great propriety and beauty, that these sublime and comfortable words are by St. Paul accommodated to the resurrection of the dead.
the dead. The text suggests to us these two remarks, which I will endeavour to illustrate, and then direct you to the proper improvement of them.
I. Death may naturally be considered as an enemy.
This is implied in the text, when the apostle speaks of a victory; and it is expressly asserted in verse 26. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is Death. It is an enemy we are every one to conflict with, for There is no discharge in that wari. Death is, by an elegant figure, often described in the scriptures, as a person, or intelligent agent. It is emphatically styled The king of terrorsg, and said to Reign over mankind by one man's offence*. Nature and experience teach us to consider death as an enemy; for
* 2 Tim, üi. 18.
# Isa. xxv. 8.
* Eccl. viii. 8.
& Job xvüi. 14.
It dissolves the union between soul and body. It dislodges the soul, willing or unwilling; and separates it from its old and dear companion. Providence has wisely implanted in every human mind a love to the body to which it is united, and a tender concern for its health; insomuch that, No man ever yet hated his own flesh, but nourisheth and cherisheth itt. Consequently a separation must be painful. Though good men while In this tabernacle, this mean precarious building, groan, being burdened, yet there is a natural aversion to put it off. Not, says the apostle, for that we would be unclothed f. It would be more agreeable to take the body with us to another world, than go through the pain and terror of dying, and have these two bosom friends divorced. This is a circumstance we would be glad to be excused from, especially as it is the consequence and punishment of sin ; but death will pull down this structure, which, mean as it is, we are fond of, having dwelt in it so long, and having been at so much care and pains to keep it in tolerable repair, and will force the inhabitant to remove.
Again, Death destroys the activity and beauty of the body, and turns it into loathsomeness and corruptions. Diseases, its forerunners, generally Consume away the flesh that it cannot be seen, and the bones that were not seen, stick out . At length the comeliness of the body is turned into deformity, and what was an object of delight, becomes a spectacle of horror. The limbs that were sprightly and active, grow stiff and useless : The eyes which sparkled with life and vigour, are sunk and ghastly : The learned brain, in which so many curious traces were lodged, so many ideas ranged with the utmost care, and retained by close recollection, has lost its exquisite sensibility; and the entertaining and instructive tongue is sealed up in silence. The vitals of the body have lost their powers. The lungs cease to play, and the heart to beat. The silver cord is loosed, and the golden bowl broken, the pitcher is broken at the fountain, and the wheel broken at the cistern | Then we are willing to bury our dead out of our sight; to cast the desire of our eyes into the grave, to mingle with common dust, and lie in dishonour and darkness for ages to come.
Further, Death removes us from our most near and intimate friends, and other earthly comforts.
* Rom. v. 17. + Eph. v. 29.
S Job xxxiii. 21. || Eccl. xii. 6.
1 2 Cor. v. 4.
It dissolves the ties of nature, and the alliances of friend. ship ; and breaks down the pleasing fabric of happiness, which love had been for many years erecting. The benevolent heart is ready to take up Hezekiah's mournful complaint, I shall behold man no more with the inhabitants of the world*.
Further, it breaks off men's thoughts and purposes relating to this world, for the good of their families, neighbourhood, and the public. The great thoughts of wise and pious men for the glory of God and the advancement of religion perish; and the charitable schemes, which depended on the continuance of their lives, are defeated.
Finally, The little acquaintance we have with the other world, to which death transmits us, increases the fear of a removal hence.
We know so little of our souls and their manner of existence and operation without a body, and there are so many doubts and fears about their eternal condition prevailing in us, that it is no wonder, the thought of quitting the present scene is painful, and death, as it removes us from it, is considered as an enemy.
Whose heart is not ready to fail him in the prospect? Who does not find his reason and sometimes his faith too, ready to sink, when he is going to encounter the king of terrors, and pass through his dark and gloomy regions to an unknown and unalterable state? And in vain we call to reason, and ask philosophy to furnish us with sufficient armour of defence, and to fortify our minds against the attacks of this stern invader. It is the peculiar glory of the gospel of Christ to assist our reason, and increase our faith in proportion to the strength of the enemy, and the different impressions which the apprehensions of it make upon our minds. And this it does by the discovery it makes of a future state, a glorious resurrection, and a final everlasting triumph over death.
Having thus briefly viewed the frightful features of the enemy, let us turn our eyes to a more bright and agreeable scene; and observe
II. True christians shallobtain a complete victory over death.
The text informs us that a victory shall be gained, and it shall be so complete, that death may be said to be even swallowed up in it, quite destroyed, and no traces or remainders of it be found. This is confirmed by the passage already mentioned; verse 26. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. The word (xalapytilas) rendered destroyed, signifies being divested of
* Isa, xxxviji. 11.