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SERMON VIII,

ON DEATH AND IMMORTALITY,

1 THESS. IV. 13, 14. 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 Jesus died, and rose again; even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.

THERE is no evil in human life more severe and afflicting than the death of our friends. To behold those with whom we have lived in the most tender bonds of affection, cut off from the land of the living, and become a breathless corpse, to witness the agonies of their dissolution, and hear their expiring groan; to see that countenance which once beamed upon us with looks of endearment, now inanimate and lifeless; and that soul which cheered and consoled us amidst the perplexities of life, now fled to some other mansions, to us unknown,-is a scene which the heart of man shudders to contemplate. To attend the earthly remains of our bosom friends, and deposit them in the grave, where they shall moulder into dust, and become a prey to corruption; to think that while the body returns to the earth as it was, the spirit has returned unto God who gave it; that it has entered into new and unexplored regions which eye hath not seen, nor imagination conceived; and has been appointed its station among kindred spirits in the invisible world, where it begins a new career of existence in its disembodied state, and experiences a happiness or misery hitherto untried,mis an event which must impress all of us with

serious reflexions. To be bereft of our friends, who were our chief consolation, and the partners of our cares; who rejoiced in our prosperity, and soothed us in adversity, who partook of our joys, and shared in our sorrows; who contributed by every means in their power to promote the happiness of ourselves and our families, is an affliction which our natures cannot endure without the most poignant anguish. To be left in a world, where so many troubles await us, without the wonted assistance of those who were dearer to us than our own souls, is indeed one of those conditions in human life, which is most distressing and calamitous.

In the bitterness of grief for such a deplorable fate, we may be apt to bemoan ourselves in the pathetic language of Job: “() that I were as in months past, as in the days when God preserved me; when his candle shined upon my head, and when by his light I walked through dark

When the Almighty was yet with me, when my wife and children were about me. But now the thing which I greatly feared is come upon me, and that which I was afraid of is happened unto me: I was not in safety; neither had I rest; neither was I quiet, yet trouble came.' Such is the lamentation in which those who have suffered the loss of friends, indulge; and such is the frailty of human nature, that sorrow unavoidably oppresses the heart, on every recent instance of the dissolution of such as we have loved and esteemed, and with whom we have lived together like brethren in unity. And such feelings we must all experience sooner or later; as long as we and our friends are subject to death, and must part with one another, at least for a season.—Therefore, the consideration of that event which we see daily happening around us, and which we also should be prepared to expect, must be at all times suitable to us wbile we remain in this uncertain world. To assist us in forming right apprehensions of the nature, design, and consequences of our own and others' dissolution; we may distribute the words of the text into the following propositions,

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vent us from indulging immoderate sorrow for the death of our friends.

II. That we should rather rejoice in the death of our virtuous friends, since they sleep in Jesus in their intermediate state, and shall be brought to glory at the resurrection of the just.

III. The practical improvement which we should make of this subject.

I. The reasons which should prevent us from indulging immoderate sorrow on the death of our friends, are many and satisfactory. We are by the law of our existence mortal creatures, who must some time or other submit to dissolution. Our first parents indeed were created with such a corporeal constitution, as was capable of being nourished by the tree of life to an interminable period of existence. But. by their transgression, they incurred the loss of that perpetual vigour which they would have maintained in this world, and that destiny which would have translated them to heaven without tasting of death. Accordingly, we are informed by the sacred historian, that the sentence of death was pronounced upon them, “ dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return." In conformity with this fate which was appointed for all living, the several generations of men, who have successively peopled the globe, have been cut off either by accidents, diseases, or violent deaths. Some men have existed for a longer, others for a shorter period of years, according to the strength or weakness of their constitutions, and according to the accidental circumstances in which they have been placed. It is computed by naturalists, that one half of mankind die before they arrive at the

age of manhood; and that the principles of decay begin to operate as soon as our bodily structure is completed. In consequence of those latent diseases which prey imperceptibly upon the vital functions, many are cut off in the prime of youth, when health and long life might have been expected. “ One dieth in his full strength, being wholly at ease and quiet; his breasts full of milk, and his bones moistened with marrow." Or if longer life awaits us, some malady seizes our frame, and in a short time brings us down to the grave. Or if we arrive at the utmost verge of existence, and number " threescore and ten, or fourscore years;" we soon experience the infirmities of age, and 'drag out a few more days of frailty, till we go the way whence we shall not · return. Such is the allotted portion of man upon earth; so few are the years of his pilgrimage ; " verily, there is but a step betwixt him and death.”

It is thus appointed for all men once to die, and this event occurs sooner or later, according to certain determinate laws, which regulate the health or sickness of our bodily constitution.When our vascular system is so far deranged, as not to be capable any longer of performing the functions of animal life; when the organs and vessels cease to have any more power for nourishing the body, and when any obstruction is generated which impedes the usual course of secretion and assimilation ; from that moment there is a tendency to speedy dissolution. These causes may have greater influence upon the health of some who are of a delicate and feeble frame, than upon others who are robust and vigorous., And accordingly we find in general, that the length or shortness of our lives depends in a great measure upon the original conformation of our corporeal frame. And we find also, that some constitutions are liable to certain fatal diseases; others to those of a different kind, which are equally deleterious. If then our friends are snatched away by death, this is nothing more than the usual fate which befals all mankind; and therefore we should not repine at their suffering the unavoidable lot of humanity. They must die, either by the violence of disease, which overcomes the energies of their youthful constitution; or if suffered to come to the grave in a good old age, they must then yield at last to the decays of nature; so that there is no respite from that impending doom, return to the dust, ye children of men. Why then should we sorrow at the departure of those who were born to dies did we not know that they were mortal; did we not know that the human body which is

casualties which easily interrupt the discharge of those minute channels through which the current of life flows, and that by such a natural cause, death has ensued; which is the natural consequence of disorganization in the ani. mal economy? Let us therefore acquiesce in the laws of nature, which are as invariable in the preservation of our lives, or the manner of our death ; as in any other appointment of divine providence.

But we may perhaps allege, that our case is more intolerable than that of others; that we have been deprived of our friends, when they were in the prime of life, and when we could least spare their important services. If they had lived till old age had rendered them unfit for farther usefulness, and after they had enabled us to bear along with them the burthens which our condition had imposed; we would have cheerfully resigned their parting spirits, and wished to accompany them to the realms of rest. As they are however taken away at a time when we expected much satisfaction and pleasure from their continuance in life, we may be ready to repine at the severity of our lot. But let us consider a little, in whose hands are the issues of life or of death. Is it not God “ who bringeth down to the grave, and bringeth up, in whose hands is the breath of every living thing, and the souls of all mankind; who chasteneth us with pain upon our beds, and the multitudes of our bones with strong pain, who changeth our countenance and sendeth us away.” Our times are in his hands, and the period of our existence on earth is at his disposal. In the usual course of his providence, he either gives us such a constitution as will support us amidst the infirmities of life, or such a one as may be susceptible of sickness from a very slight indisposition in our organic system. If he does not by some counteracting energy, prevent the natural tendency- to dissolution occasioned by the action of disease, we undergo the consequences which result from such a combination of concurrent causes all operating on our constitution. If for wise reasons, he sees fit to prolong our days, he can in a manner to us unknown, so far modify the temperament of our bodies, as to render them

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