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And I saw the dead, small and great, stand bedre God; and the books were opened and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works"
Ah! then, my fellow-christians! how many thou sand thousand secrets shall be laid open before an assembled universe? Then, and not till then, shall we thoroughly see and understand the sum and scope of God's eternal plan, without those intricacies wherein it is now involved! Then shall the account between virtue and vice be finally stated and balanced! Then shall hypocrisy be obliged to lay down its mask, oppres sion his rod, dominion his sceptre; and all to appear naked and on a level, at the bar of the Almighty, to give an account of their stewardship, cach for himself, and none by another!
Then shall it be seen how every one of us has used the gifts committed to us in our several spheres. Then shall it be known for what end wealth, or power, or great talents were variously bestowed. If the former was our portion, it will be known, whether we hoarded it up with a mere sordid view of self enjoy. ment? Whether we suffered it to draw off our attention from things celestial, to extinguish the social and public affections; and to debase us into a literal affinity with the beasts that perish? or whether, if we did bestow any thing out of our abundance, it was done. with a spirit of ostentation to be seen of men; or done, in the true Gospel-sense, to feed the hungry and cloath the naked, after answering all the domestic charities of father, son and brother, and the sacred calls of the community, which includes the whole.
Rev. xx. 11, 12,
heed to the flock over which the Holy Ghost hath made me overseer; feeding the church of God which he hath purchased with his own blood*."—
Such being the case, then, my brethren; and since as the tree falleth, there it will lie; since as death leaves us, judgment will find us; what an awful and important moment must the moment of our dying be? It is like entering, through a dark portal, into the great mansion-house where we must render up our stewardship. Having once passed the threshold, there is no way for retreat left; no way to alter or amend one jot of our account; for "there is neither work nor device in the gravet."
No wonder, then, that to die, should be reckoned a thing exceeding solemn! A day of accounts, and the vast ocean of eternity before us.-Oh, how the soul shudders on the brink, and fain, very fain, would cleave to this evanescent speck of earth, loth to quit her hold, till the God of grace comes with his divine consolations, and cheers the recoiling spirits!
And this leads me, in the third place, to observe, that our only hope in the hour of death, is to be derived from the Gospel-prospects and promises.
Before the Christian Revelation was made known, the death of the best of men was only a leap into the dark; a wrench from the precincts of day, and a sorrowful parting with all that they placed their hopes upon. The wisdom of the world could even go but a little way in teaching men how to live, but when it came to lay down lessons how to die, it was found to be perfect foolishness. It gave them no solid assur† Eccles. ix, 10.
• Acts, xx.
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 are 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 destructiont."
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, "But clouds and darkness hung upon it."
† 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, know 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 scek to draw them from that sacred refuge? He had full