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I be taken away from thee.” And in like manner the last hours of this holy man were employed in sending various messages of affection, consolation, and encouragement to the various members of his family and his numerous friends,—especially to his son here in the ministry, he bid them say from him in the name of his Divine Master, “Be thou faithful unto death and I will give thee a crown of life.”
After a life thus long and useful, the application to the present case of the last clause of our text is particularly affecting; “ He saw him no more.” The place that knew him shall know him no more. But he is gone to that better land where the inhabitant shall not say I am sick, and the people that dwell therein shall be forgiven their iniquity. He is blessed, for he died in the Lord. He rests from his labours and his works follow him.
I must not omit to mention one circumstance. Very near the time of his dissolution, in the extremity of bodily weakness, he broke upon a period of silence, by the utterance of these few emphatic words, “ More than conqueror !" I beseech you, brethren, meditate upon, and try to realize the scene. How gloriously sublime! Subdued by disease, yet more than conqueror! The prey of death, yet more than conqueror! Descending to the dark grave, yet more than conqueror! Ah! but it was not the saint that was dying. It was only his frail tenement that was dissolving and returning to its kindred dust. He himself was about to take his triumphant flight to the throne of God.
More than conqueror! What mean these mysterious words? The proudest boast that ever earthly warrior sought to make his own was that he might be called a conqueror. But it is at once the holy ambition and the high attainment of the believer in Jesus to be more than conqueror. He grapples with all the confederated power of his enemies, in the name and strength of the Redeemer, and is more than conqueror, for he not only overcomes them but brings them over to his side. Death, the most formidable and the last of all our enemies, shall one day be destroyed : and in the meanwhile it is the believer's privilege to regard him as if he were a friend approaching with the most welcome of all messages-to bid you into the immediate company of angels, and into the presence of the Lamb. Our venerable and now sainted friend died in peace, having a desire to depart and to be with Christ, which he knew to be far better. And the prospect afforded him he said, “ a joy that was unspeakable and full of glory.”
Allow me here to observe, that I do not produce this as a specimen of his pre-eminent attainment in the grace of the Gospel. I rather hold it to be an evidence of the low state-I had almost said—the destitution of spiritual principle in very many, that they are found to wonder at this willingness, as if to desire their departure were a matter far beyond their reach, and to which they were altogether strangers. Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you,
that a man should wish to go where the affections of his heart are fixed ? The believer has been born from above. He is now become a native of heaven, and it is no wonder if he wish to return to “ heaven, his native place.” When the Saviour says, “Behold, I come quickly," it is nothing more than the renewed nature of the new creature to reply, “ Even so come, Lord Jesus.” And hence lest, because of the frailty that is ever mingled with our best feelings, there might be danger of impatience, there abound in the Scripture exhortations to repress it. So St. Paul to the Thessalonians,—“ The Lord direct your hearts unto the love of God, and the patient waiting for Christ.” I would rather say then that his willingness to stay was the evidence of the style of our friend's religion. Thus it has been with many of the saints of old. Job says (vii. 16), “ I would not live alway;" but again he says (xiv. 14), in more deepened submission to the divine will, “ All the days of my appointed time will I wait ..." In like manner the Apostle, “I am in a strait betwixt two -having a desire to depart--nevertheless, to abide in the flesh is more needful for you.” Willingly to stay then, methinks, is the attainment which pre-eminently marks the Christian character. To be encompassed with infirmity; assailed with temptation ; harassed with affliction; burdened with sins; vexed with scenes of rebellion against God, and transgression of his righteous law; to be in the midst of all this, on the one hand, and to meditate upon heaven, on the other; with its purity and peace, its joy and praise; surely, it is the trial of the Christian's obedience calmly to submit his will to that of his God, and
patiently wait his bidding ere he be supremely blest. Now this I conceive was the rare attainment of him of whom I am now speaking. And it was evidenced by that enlivening and edifying intercourse he was ever ready to maintain, into whatever Christian society he might be introduced; that gentle, cheerful, animated, yet deeply spiritual energy with which he kindly lent his aid at any of those meetings, public or social, at which he might be present.
There is a threefold gradation in the believer's history. In his state of nature he loves the world for the sake of its vanities or its gains. When he is brought into a state of grace, he loves heaven for its holiness and its happiness. When further he becomes thoroughly imbued with that grace, that humbles and sanctifies, and brings every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, be by no means ceases to love heaven; he loves it more and more; but he becomes even endeared to his condition in this world ; because it is the condition his father has selected out of all others for him, and chooses for him as yet that he should continue there. The desire to depart and to be with Christ, is not then destroyed in the mind of the advanced believer, but it is chastened by submission and acquiescence in his Father's will. And in such willingness this aged minister of Christ departed, as he expressed, to his home-his everlasting home. Such a departure is a blessed subject of contemplation. See how nature is contravened and overcome by grace! For the very materialism of Elijah, the earth, at the bidding of her maker, forgot her gravitation; those invisible mysterious cords which bind our bodies to its surface were cut asunder, and his body ascended with his soul, without hindrance, to the skies. By the implantation of grace into the soul, the earth loses its attraction for the affections of the heart, and they soar upwards ; and even while he sojourns here below, the believer in heart and mind thither ascends whither his Saviour Christ is gone before, and at the time appointed, the angels become willing, welcome messengers to introduce his disembodied spirit to the
presence and the throne of God.
My dear friends, suffer in conclusion a few words of simple exhortation.
1. Avail yourselves while opportunity is afforded you of the faithful ministry of the word of God. How fearfully is it disregarded by the world! So, for the most part, it ever has been. There were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah the prophet; but unto none of them was he sent. He might have restored their comforts that were lost, as he did her son to the widow of Sarepta. But they would not apply to him for the purpose. There are now many sufferers in the world, in consequence of the many sins that are committed in it. The Gospel contains that healing balm which alone can restore to you happiness and peace. The servants of Christ are appointed for this very purpose to minister it to you. He, according to his promise, will render their ministry effectual, if you in obedience and faith will make the application. We would rejoice to impart to you some spiritual gift, to the end you may be edified; we pray you not to despise your own mercies, nor pour contempt upon the kindness of your Saviour God.
2. Sympathize with those that are in affliction, especially the ministering servants of the Lord. A brother is born for adversity. Remember them that are in bonds as bound with them. I need not sure urge you to the exercise of sympathy in the present affliction of your own beloved pastor. Only give to the feeling a spiritual direction, and pray constantly and fervently that a double portion of his Father's spirit may rest upon him.
3. There is no need ; and therefore sorrow not in this case as those who have no hope.
He saw him no more. Yet, it is not said he never should see him any more. And this is the Christian's hope and consolation respecting those who have departed in the faith of Christ. They are not lost, but gone before. “ For, if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also that sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.” Then will be the time of our everlasting reunion, and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore, comfort one another with these words.
LONDON: PUBLISHED BY W. Harding, 11, Red Lion Court, and 14, GRAY'S
Printed by C. Roworth & Sons, Bell Yard, Temple Bar.
CHURCH OF ENGLAND PREACHER.
Patronized by the Clergy and others.
On Behulf of the Church Pastoral Aid Society,
PREACHED BY THE
REV. JOHN NORMAN PEARSON, M.A.
(OF ISLINGTON MISSIONARY COLLEGE,)
At St. Clement Danes, Strand,
Text.-" Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have
received mercy we faint not."- 2nd Epistle to the Corin
thians, 4th chapter and the 1st verse. St. Paul, distinguished as he was by strength of character, needed hourly support from the Holy Ghost; and from the reflections of his own devout mind amidst the manifold trials that compassed him about, it was no light warfare in which he was engaged. His object was, as he subsequently states, to “pull down strongholds, to cast down imaginations and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and to bring into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.'
That an enterprize so vast as this, which went to subdue every force that opposed itself to God and the Gospel, and to bring the whole human race under a sceptre--not of this world, that such an enterprize was not to be achieved without infinite labour and peril, our Apostle cannot for an instant have disguised from himself. Strong, indeed, then must have been the principle that laid hold on all his faculties and affections, and impelled him to a course of action of which the temporal results were conflict out of conflict, and sorrow upon sorrow. And what was the principle that wrought so energetically in this illustrious man? It was a profound conviction of the paramount importance of the ministry intrusted to him. Through Divine Mercy he had felt the [No. 11 & 12.]