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firm and unshaken, upon the arm of the Almighty ? Were there no dangers to combat, why should we take unto ourselves the whole armour of God, the sword of the Spirit, the shield of faith, and the helmet of salvation ? Not only does adversity present the occasion of spiritual improvement, but has also in every age produced an host of saints, who, clothed with this divine armour, have fought the good fight, and have come forth conquerors. You have recorded to you the faith of Abraham ; you have recorded the meekness of Moses; you have recorded the patience of Job; but had it not been for the trials which they underwent, the dangers they had to combat, and the distresses they had to bear, their glory might have perished, and their names been lost in oblivion. As the nightingale, it is said, when bereft of her young, fills the woods with the mufic of wo, and, from the impulse of sorrow, warbles her sweetest strains ; so, from the wounded mind, and from the broken fpir. it, the fervour of devotion, and the eloquence of prayer, come up with such pathetic memorial before the throne, that the Divine ear listens delighted. True religion, true virtue, brightens in distress ; she emerges from the deep with tenfold radiance, and never shines with such transcendent, such triumphant, such immortal beauty, as when wandering through the darkness of an eclipse. You fee, then, that in these paths you are in the company of the good, and are encompassed with a cloud of witnesses. You are not left alone to climb the arduous ascent. On thefe inountains, the feet of patriarchs, the feet of prophets, and the feet of martyrs, have trode. On thefe - mountains, a greater than patriarchs, than prophets, than martyrs, appeared.
The fourth and last thing propofed, was, To consider Christianity as affording a joyful consolation against the fear of death.
Many and various are the evils to which human life is subjected. To finish the mighty sum of them, and to make the scene end with pain, as it began with sorrow, comes the evil of death. The king of terrors, with his black train of attendants, even when seen at a distance, makes the firmest knee to shake, and the stouteft heart to tremble; and, when exerting his influence upon feebie minds, and assisted by the power of the imagination, has kept multitudes all their days under the cloud of melancholy, and under fubjection to bondage. It is the great excellence of the Christian Religion, that as it affords confolation in all the evils of life, so it also provides a remedy against the fear of death. Hence the prophet, looking forward unto the days of the Messiah, breaks out into these strains of exultation: “I will redeem “them from death: I will ranfom them from the
power of the grave: O death, I will be thy plague; “ O grave, I will be thy destruction.” Hence says the Apostle Paul, “ Forasmuch as the children were
partakers of flesh and blood, he himself also took “ part of the same, that he might destroy him that " had the power of death, that is the devil, and de“ liver them who, through fear of death, were all “ their lifetime subject to bondage.”
The evils attending death to men, in a state of nature, are manifold.
One of these is the uncertainty of our future deftination. Reason gives us little information concernring the state of the foul when it departs from the body. We see the body mingle with its kindred ele ements, and return to the dust from whence it was taken. But what becomes of the soul ? Does it too cease to exist, and vanish into air ? Or does it still live and act in another scene? Here we are lost in conjectures and uncertainty. We see the traveller involved in the cloud of night, but we know not afsuredly of any morning that awaits him. The ocean spreads before us vast and dark, but we know not with certainty if it will waft us to any shore. What a disconfolate situation of mind is this ! Afflicted with the view of our past life; tormented with prefent pain ; and hovering over an abyss from which we are uncertain if we shall ever emerge! To pass for ever into the dominion of darkness; to go we know not where! Lost in these doubts, troubled with the fears of futurity, the Roman Emperor ad. dressed his departing soul: “O my soul, thou art
leaving thy once loved haunts, thy former com. “panions, and thy wonted joys; but into what un“ known regions and dark abodes art thou now go“ ing? Alas! thou canst not tell!” These doubts and perplexities are now removed by the coming of Christ. When the Sun of Righteousness rose in our region, it dispelled the shadows of the everlasting evening; it poured its radiance upon the path of immortality, and brought full to view the scenes of the invisible world. The future scenes of happiness and glory are not only discovered by the Gospel of Jesus, but are set before our eyes. In the inspired oracles, we hear the voice of the archangel and the trump of God; we see the dead arising from their graves ; a mighty army of saints and martyrs springing with joy pared for
from dust and corruption. We fee Jesus upon the throne, and the faithful at his right hand. We hear the happy fentence pronounced upon them, “ Come ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom pre
before the foundations of the world were laid.” We see them with palms of victory in their hands, and with crowns of glory on their heads, ascending up on high with their Lord, and fitting down with him upon his throne.
Another evil attending on death is the sense of our fins and transgressions, which then rising up to our memory in black colours, overwhelm us with horror of-mind. But to those who receive the privileges of Christianity, the bed of death will not be a scene of terror. With a faith which overcometh the world, they give up their souls into the hands of him who made them. “ I have indeed sinned, most merciful “ Father, against Heaven and in thy sight. Mine in
iquities compass me about. I am covered with con, “ fusion, and condemn myself, and often have been « afraid left thy judgment should confirm the sentence " of my own heart. But thou art merciful and gra" cious. Thou hast no pleasure in death. I am un“ worthy of the least of all thy mercies. But worso thy is the Lamb that was flain, to receive blessing « and glory and honor and power. : In his death I * see the price of my redemption. In his life I fee 6. the path which leads to immortality. In his ref«urrection I see the proof of my own, and evidence “ of my immortal existence. I have accepted the
offers of thy mercy, and have endeavoured to walk
worthy of the vocation wherewith I was called. ** With whatever failings I may have been encom
paflod, thou knowest that it has been the study of my
life to approve myself to thee, and to obtain " the testimony of a good conscience. Trusting to
thy mercy, and relying on the merits of my Ress deemer, Father of all, I come to thee! With the
joy of the Patriarch, I follow thy call into the land 66 unknown.”
Thus, my brethren, I have endeavoured to set before you some of the joyful consolations derived from the Gospel of Jesus ; confolations which not only serve to support and animate us under the afflictions of this present life, but which also enter within the veil, and constitute our happiness through everlasting ages. But before I conclude, regard to my duty prompts me to warn and admonish you, that though the glad tidings of the Gospel are proclaimed to all, yet the consolations which they contain are not intended for, and are not conferred upon, all who hear the Gospel. It is only they who believe, who repent, who reform, that will ever reap any solid advantage from the Christian religion. The profession of Christianity will avail us nothing. It will avail us nothing to say that we have faith. We may easily deceive ourselves, and make a lively imagination pass for a strong faith. But unless our faith purify the heart, unless it work by love, unless it produce the fruits of righteousness, it is no better than the faith of the devils, who believe and tremble. Let me therefore persuade you, never so much as in thought, to separate the ideas of faith and morality; of belief in Christianity and a good life. If you make the attempt, you are undone for ever.