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put off the old rags of our mortality, to be clothed upon anew, and to come forth, fresh and refulgent, in the rich dress and embroidery of Heaven.
It shall be my endeavour, (ye mournful brethren and sisters) in my subsequent occasional discourses before you, from this luminous text, to examine and weigh, in the scales of Religion, Reason, and Philosophy, those good things, commonly so called, by which too many are drawn (as already expressed) to hang upon the breasts of this world, and to suck poison from them to their very souls;" I shall further strive to offer such considerations, as, under divine grace, may disentangle our thoughts, and wean our souls from too great an attachment to the things of this world, and send them forward to another world, in earnest longings after immortality; anticipating the joys above, and seating ourselves by faith in the company of angels and arch-angels; having our conversation in heaven, looking for the coming of our Lord, and panting to be with him forever!
FIRST PREACHED, DECEMBER 8, 1793.
1. THESS. CHAP. IV.
But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, &c.
THE first head of discourse, from this luminous text, viz. How, through divine assistance, we may subdue the Fear of Death, hath been partly handled in the foregoing Sermon. Let us now resume this head, and strive to get footing beyond Death and the Grave, on the shores of an Eternal World-Oh how ravishing, how divinely glorious, how resplendently bright, will our prospects then become," shining more and more unto the perfect day," as we proceed in our view, through the grand scenes of a Resurrection and future Judgment; provided only, that, in pursuing this view, we are supported by Faith, and animated with Hope-that, through the atonement of Christ, in that day "when he shall descend from heaven, with a shout, with the voice of the Archangel, and with the trump of God, when the dead in Christ shall hear his voice, and rise first; we shall be awakened, with them, and caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air,"
be placed on his right hand, in the great day of his power, and receive the joyful sentence-" Well done good and faithful servants! depart ye," amidst the hymns and hallelujahs of the heavenly hosts, into the kingdom "prepared for you from the foundation of the world, and so be forever with the Lord!”
But although it be hard to recall ourselves from those rapturous views and anticipations of glory; we must, nevertheless, strive to return, for a while, to this side of the grave, to this valley of sorrow and tears, "and take unto ourselves the whole armour of God, in order to fight the good fight, to wrestle against principalities, against powers, against [death and] the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places, &c.* This contest, and our victory in it (through the grace given us) are necessary, before we can reach those Joys, on the other side of the Grave, which fade not away!"
But, did I say, "hard to recall ourselves?" Let me now correct myself, and say, no! For when we consider that our passage through this valley of the shadow of Death, is the appointed way to the Land of Life; and that we are now proceeding to seek such arguments, as may dispel our sorrows, allay our miseries, and strew our path, in this passage, with Hope and Comfort;-I trust, that to recall ourselves will not be attended with any insuperable difficulty; nor indeed be a very hard task! In the preceding Sermon, the main causes of our fear of Death were generally stated, viz.
* Ephes. chap. vi. 12, 13.
1st. Want of faith in Christ, and the strict union of our souls with him, through the grace of his holy spirit.
2d. An overweening attachment to what are called the good things of this world.
3d. Want of consideration, and of due reflection on the shortness of our time; with the uncertain tenure, and perishable nature, of all our enjoyments here.
4th. Doubts, real or pretended, instilled into us and cherished (by means of a vain and superficial philosophy; "wise above what is written,") concerning a future state of existence; and whether the change of our present condition in this world will be for the better or worse, in the world to come?
Let us now proceed to a further examination of those causes, and particularly the second,* "our overweening attachment to what are called the good things of this world; which springs from a false estimate of them, and a vehement desire to hold uninterrupted possession of them..
Respecting this estimate, and for the sake of clearer method, mankind may be considered, more or less, under two classes; viz. one, by far the most numerous, consisting of those, whose condition of life subjects them to labours, and sorrows, and cares, and distresses, and sufferings, both as to body and mind; which, in their consideration, leave the small alloy of good things, in their cup, almost tasteless
See p. 62 of the preceding Sermon, respecting the first cause...." Want of Faith," &c.
and unenjoyed; or at best their condition in life, they reckon so chequered, that, in their balance of happiness and misery, they can hardly determine which scale preponderates.
To reconcile this class of men to the thoughts of Death (as suggested before) methinks, cannot be an insuperable, nor even a very hard task; either if they will weigh the arguments adduced in the former Sermon, or have patience to wait for, and to hear and consider, what may be offered from our text, in this and the following Sermons. All that seems necessary, is that they strive earnestly, to be well-grounded in the Christian Faith, and the belief of an eternal world, in which their joys will be pure and without alloya world which no evil can approach, because all evil will be done away, and "every tear wiped from every eye."
But there is another class of men, if it be possible to believe them sincere, with whom these arguments will have no weight. They say, and would have us to take their word for it, "that they are so well satisfied with their lot in this world, that they wish for none better; and that all they desire is the stability of their enjoyments, and the perpetuity of their lease-hold in it!" Arguments of revelation and scripture they reject, as Petitio Principii—a begging the question; and strive to rest on erring reason, and that wisdom which originates here below!
I am willing to meet them on their own ground, to enter their lists, and fight them with their own weapons; weighing, in the scales of true philosophy,