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Confident that you, an affectionate people, amongst whom I esteem myself happy, will bear with me on the present occasion, and give me a share in your prayers and sympathy, I shall go on to improve this righteous providence of God. The passage
I have read to you, will naturally lead us to a variety of suitable reflections, such as are calculated to give support and comfort, under the death of those relatives, who, we have reason to believe, have slept in Jesus. Therefore I shall not be called to preach altogether to myself; inasmuch as what may be suggested from the text, will be no less suitable to you, who have lately lost near and pious relations : yea, it may be received and treasured up against the time to come. Af. flictions await us, and we know not how soon God may make a breach in our families, or among the number of our bosom friends.
St. John having spoken of the rise, power and cruelty of antichrist, in the preceding chapter, proceeds to foretel his destruction, and the punishment that would be inflicted on all such as should worship the beast, and his image, and receive his mark in their forehead and in their hand. But with respect to those, that should endure the great fight of affliction, and maintain their integrity, in the midst of temptation and bloody persecution, he highly commends their conduct, and pronounces them blessed in death.
Ver. 12, 13. “ Here is the patience of the saints: Here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.” q.d. In these distressing times of antichristian cruelty, their patience having been severely tried, did shine conspicuously ; they chose rather to part with their lives, than to
deny their Master. And the text seems to beintroduced with a design to encourage such patience in tribulation, by setting before the saints a prospect of enjoying immortal blessedness, as soon as they should finish their course : “ And I heard a voice froin heaven, saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead that die in the Lord, from henceforth: yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours, and their works do follow them.” Let us attend to the following particulars :
I. An inquiry into the import of the phrase, “dying in the Lord.”
II. A consideration of the blessedness of such; “ Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours, and their works do follow them."
I. We are to inquire into the import of the phrase, “ dying in the Lord :” which is an inquiry of importance, seeing the blessedness here predicated is confined to such.
1. Some die in the comforts of the Lord; being favoured with the most lively manifestations of the love of God, and clear and soul-reviving discoveries of that glory to be revealed. Many believers have had such realizing views of heaven and its ineffable felicities, by faith, through the medium of eternal truth, and the Spirit of God so sensibly witnessing with their spirits their adoption, that they have been anxious to be gone. Death and all its terrors have been swallowed up in the divine prospect of the all-surpassing glory; and from hence they have, upon the verge of eternity, cried out like the mother of Sisera in another case, “Why is his chariot so long in coming ? Why tarry the wheels of his chariots ?"
We have had numerous instances of those triumphant deaths, which adorn religion and confirm the hope of such of the children of God who have still to submit to the like event. With what pleasure and tranquillity have some waited for their dissolution, under the growing imfirmities of the body, and have often spoke of the period when they should be dissolved with an evident satisfaction ? I have never read the letter of which the following is an extract, written by the devout Mrs. Rowe to the Rev. Dr. Watts, without delight. After she had requested that he would look over, and prepare certain of her papers for the press, she adds, I have now done with mortal things, and all to come is vast eternity. Eternity! How transporting is the sound! As long as God exists, my being and my happiness is secure. These unbounded desires, which the wide creation cannot limit, shall be satisfied forever. I shall drink at the fountain head of pleasure, and be refreshed with the emanations of original life and joy. I shall hear the voice of uncreated harmony speaking peace and ineffable consolation to my soul.
“Through the blood of the Lamb, I hope for an entire victory over the last enemy; and that be. fore this comes to you, I shall have reached the celestial heights; and while you are reading these lines, I shall be adoring before the throne of God, where faith shall be turned to vision, and these languishing desires satisfied with the full fruition of immortal love."* Thus lived that ingenious, pious Christian in the glorious prospect of immortality.
Prefixed to Mrs. Rowe's Devout Exercises of the Heart.
And how full of divine consolation was the excellent Mr. Hervey. On the day of his death, among many other things that he said, which are worthy of being transcribed and repeated, he mentioned i Cor. iii. 21, 22, 23. “ All things are yours; whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come ; all are yours; and ye are Christ's ; and Christ is God's.” And went on in the following language, . Here is the treasure of a Christian. Death is reckoned among this inventory; and a noble treasure it is. How thankful am I for death, as it is the passage through which I pass to the Lord and Giver of eternal life ; and as it frees me from all this misery you now see me endure, and which I am willing to endure, as long as God thinks fit; for I know he will, by and by, in his own good time, dismiss me from the body. These light afflictions are but for a moment, and then comes an eternal weight of glory. O! welcome, welcome death! Thou mayst well be reckoned among the treasures of the Christian. “To live is Christ, but to die is gain.”* Thus died that man of God, whose praise is in the churches. Besides whom, we have had a crowd of witneffes. And whosoever understands Heb. xi. 1. “ Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen ;" I say, whosoever experimentally understands this incomparable definition of faith, may at once account for the Christian's tri. umph over the last enemy.
But it is necessary to observe, that all the children of God do not die in the comforts of the
* Hervey's Life
Holy Ghost. We have seen some very affecting instances of the exemplary Christian his having the severest conflict in his last illness and death. I have read of an eminent divine, who had lived thirty years in the assurance of faith; notwithstanding which, he died in the dark. And let it be remembered, that there are many things at such times that tend to fill the mind with gloomi
The diseases of the body, of which the -Christian complains, often so affect the mind as to hinder the wonted exertion and exercise of its faculties: these two being so nearly connected, that in common their distresses are reciprocal.
Besides, we cannot be insensible that it is the devil's last onset ; and the shorter his sea. son of tempting is, the more violent are his efforts. 66 The devil is come down to you,” said -St. John to the church, “in great wrath, because he knoweth he hath but a short time.” He cannot destroy, but he will as much as possible perplex the children of God. Add to this that the believer's comfortable living, and surely his comfortable dying, depends upon the communication of divine love, and the vigorous exercise of faith. Now God may, yea, he sometimes does, for wise reasons, 'suspend his .gracious influences from his own children, even when on a deathbed. The Lord Jesus Christ himself, when he hung on the cross, cried, “ My God, my God, 'Why hast thou forsaken me?” It becomes us to be silent, when the reasons of the divine conduct. are hid from us. But, alas, how apt are we ar such times to say, "Why is it thus?' This in. 'stance in which our blessed Redeemer was